Young people living with HIV, stigma and its mental health effects

HIV-related stigma, shame, and avoidant coping: risk factors for internalizing symptoms among youth living with HIV?

Bennett DS, Hersh J, Herres J, Foster J. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2016 Aug;47(4):657-64. doi: 10.1007/s10578-015-0599-y.

Youth living with HIV (YLH) are at elevated risk of internalizing symptoms, although there is substantial individual variability in adjustment. We examined perceived HIV-related stigma, shame-proneness, and avoidant coping as risk factors of internalizing symptoms among YLH. Participants (N = 88; ages 12-24) completed self-report measures of these potential risk factors and three domains of internalizing symptoms (depressive, anxiety, and PTSD) during a regularly scheduled HIV clinic visit. Hierarchical regressions were conducted for each internalizing symptoms domain, examining the effects of age, gender, and maternal education (step 1), HIV-related stigma (step 2), shame- and guilt-proneness (step 3), and avoidant coping (step 4). HIV-related stigma, shame-proneness, and avoidant coping were each correlated with greater depressive, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. Specificity was observed in that shame-proneness, but not guilt-proneness, was associated with greater internalizing symptoms. In multivariable analyses, HIV-related stigma and shame-proneness were each related to greater depressive and PTSD symptoms. Controlling for the effects of HIV-related stigma and shame-proneness, avoidant coping was associated with PTSD symptoms. The current findings highlight the potential importance of HIV-related stigma, shame, and avoidant coping on the adjustment of YLH, as interventions addressing these risk factors could lead to decreased internalizing symptoms among YLH.

Abstract access [1]

Editor’s notes: This study examined the relationship between stigma, shame and avoidant coping strategies and the development of internalizing symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, in young people living with HIV. It is based on researcher-administered questionnaires with 88 young people living with HIV attending an HIV clinic in Philadelphia, USA. The questionnaire included multiple scales to assess. These included young people’s self-reported issues with HIV stigma; tendency to feel shame; tendency to feel guilt; avoidant coping strategies; depressive symptoms; anxiety symptoms; and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Multiple statistical analyses were performed, controlling for the effects of gender, age and maternal education. The study found that HIV-associated stigma, shame and avoidant strategies are risk-factors for the development of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder in young people living with HIV. The study provides evidence for the development of psychosocial support that focuses on shame reduction as a way to mediate the impact of stigma on mental health outcomes for young people living with HIV.

Northern America [6]
United States of America [7]
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