Using novel methods to examine stress among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men and women.

Published: April 27, 2012

Abstract

Biomarker composites (BCs) that objectively quantify psychosocial stress independent of self report could help to identify those at greatest risk for negative health outcomes and elucidate mechanisms of stress-related processes. Here, BCs are examined in the context of existing disease progression among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) with high stress histories, including childhood sexual abuse. Participants (N = 99) collected 12-h overnight and morning urine samples for assay of cortisol and catecholamines (primary BC) and neopterin (an indicator of HIV disease progression). Data on cumulative psychosocial trauma history (severity, types, frequency, age at first incident), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, sexual risk behaviors, and a secondary BC consisting of routine health indicators (heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio) were also collected. Lifetime trauma exposure was highly pervasive and significantly greater among those meeting a standard cutoff for PTSD caseness (24 %). After controlling for HIV factors (neopterin levels and years with disease), PTSD was a significant (p < .05) predictor of the primary, but not secondary BC. Those with PTSD also had significantly more sexual partners, sex without a condom, and exchange sex for money or drugs than those without PTSD. Specific trauma characteristics predicted PTSD severity and caseness independently and uniquely in regression models (p’s < .05-.001). A primary BC appears sensitive to cumulative trauma burden and PTSD in HIV-positive African American MSMW, providing support for the use of BCs to quantify psychosocial stress and inform novel methods for examining mechanisms of stress influenced health behaviors and disease outcomes in at-risk populations.

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