High Cases of PTSD Reported in Women Living with HIV

Women living with HIV have been reported to also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD.

A study examined women in Baltimore attending The Johns Hopkins HIV Clinic. Initially, the study was meant to study drinking habits among HIV positive women. The study took place between  2006 and 2010.

Trauma is 5 Times Higher Among Women Living with HIV

The participants in the study were pulled from a similar background. They were all black middled aged women. They had a high school education or less, unemployed and were living below the poverty level.

The researchers based at Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, observed that there was no significant background differences between the participants who suffered from PTSD and those who didn’t.

However, they noted that all most all of the participants suffered from some kind of trauma. They also noted that about 33% of those with PTSD had a high viral load even if they were taking antiretroviral therapy (ARV).

From the study, the researcher were able to conclude that cases of trauma were five times more in HIV positive women than in the entire US women population. Anxiety and depression were other conditions that were more prevalent in HIV positive women than observed in HIV negative women.

They also observed that one in every five HIV positive women is suffering from PTSD. Researchers feel that PTSD increases the chances of poor health. Patients with PTSD are more likely to miss their ARV treatment, miss follow up appointments and suffer from other mental disorders. This puts their health in high risk as they are more prone to getting attacked by opportunistic infections.

 Major Causes of PTSD in Women Living with HIV

The researchers said that PTSD is rarely a sole diagnosis and will normally be as a result of another condition such as trauma, anxiety, depression and bipolar disorders.

The most popular cause of PTSD in women living with HIV, according to the study is major depressive disorder while the second cause is trauma. About 50% of the study participants suffered from major depressive disorder at some point in their lives. Another 12.3% were currently suffering from the condition.

The researchers found out that the highest cause of trauma among these women was sexual assault and childhood trauma. About 39.3% of the participants reported to have been raped while in total, 75% of the participants were either sexually assaulted or molested before the age of 17. This number is higher than the 1 in every 6 women reported in the general population.

Need for Community Stress Screening

The researchers said that even if a HIV positive woman was not suffering from PTSD or any kind of trauma, they need extra care as they are still living very stressful environment given their condition.

The researchers called for sensitive screening for stress while assessing this vulnerable group for treatment options. Health providers will normally not screen for PTSD in HIV patients. They also called for special interventions geared towards helping this ignored group for better management and care.

Source: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists