Stressful or Traumatic Life Events, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms and HIV Sexual Risk Taking Among Men Who Have Sex With Men

The researchers designed the current study to assess "the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in response to stressful or traumatic life events and their impact on HIV risk behaviors and associated psychosocial variables among men who have sex with men (MSM)."

Notices posted in a community health clinic and a modified respondent-driven sampling technique were used to recruit participants. A total of 189 MSM signed up, of whom 60 percent were HIV-positive, and completed a behavioral assessment survey. In assessments using the startle, psychosocial arousal, anger and numbness screening instrument, 60 percent of the men were positive for PTSD symptoms.

After the researchers controlled for race, sexual self-identification, and HIV status, multivariable logistic regression analyses "revealed that screening in for having PTSD symptoms was significantly associated with having engaged in unprotected anal (insertive or receptive) sex in the past 12 months, over and above any effects of whether or not a traumatic/stressful event occurred during the year (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.72; p<0.02; 95 percent confidence interval [CI]=1.19-6.20)."

Further, MSM with PTSD symptoms were more likely to have clinically significant depressive symptoms (AOR=3.50; p<0.001) and/or symptoms of social anxiety (AOR=2.87; p<0.01; 95 percent CI=1.48-5.62).

"The current study, in the context of other research documenting the high rates of co-occurring psychosocial issues facing MSM, points to the importance of incorporating coping with these issues in HIV and [STD] prevention and care interventions," the authors concluded.