PTSD in Individuals with HIV

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been found to manifest in some individuals with HIV, a sexually transmitted infection that interferes with the body’s ability to fight off other diseases (Katz and Nevid). The severity of PTSD in these individuals with HIV is correlated with greater HIV symptoms, experiencing trauma before the HIV diagnosis, decreased social support, negative life events, and stigma (Katz and Nevid). Of these, stigma was most influential on PTSD symptom development (Katz and Nevid). In other words, perceived stigma against HIV was found to significantly propagate PTSD symptom progression (Katz and Nevid).

One example of such stigma is the individual with HIV is at fault for acquiring the illness, which, simply put, is an unfair assertion (Katz and Nevid). This, in addition to other stigma, could cause the individual to feel ashamed of their condition. It may also lead them to feel or be rejected by family and friends (Katz and Nevid). Furthermore, as alluded to earlier, stigma could also facilitate the formation of PTSD.

Similar to how HIV carries with it stigma, so too does PTSD. In previous posts, we’ve touched upon potential harmful stigma unfairly tied to PTSD. Some incorrect perceptions of PTSD include the following: the individual is responsible for their mental condition, the individual with PTSD is “dangerous or violent,” or even that the individual is “crazy.” All of these are certainly incorrect, and they’re simply nothing more than unfair prejudgments. It is also a possibility that those with HIV and comorbid PTSD, can be challenged by the stigmas of both conditions. In these individuals with both HIV and PTSD, stigma may be even more prominent and debilitating. It may even cause worsening of either or both of these conditions.

There is certainly a lot of harm associated with the stigma of various conditions—both mental and physical. Certainly, it hurts the individual at the receiving end in a variety of ways—by demoralizing them, by causing them to feel rejected, etc. It is, therefore, important that we help the individual by remaining impervious to how others may potentially perceive one’s condition in a negative light. The individual is what matters and as fellow humans, we should seek to better the lives of others. Learning more about one’s condition, including from the individual facing it, could vastly broaden our perspective and could elucidate our concerns, our reservations, and maybe even our fears of a condition we may not know much about.


Katz, Stacey, and Jeffrey S. Nevid. “Risk Factors Associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptomatology in HIV-Infected Women.” AIDS Patient Care and STDs 19.2 (2005): 110-20. Web. 19 May 2015.

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