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Long-term Survivors

Mental Resilience Against HIV Stigma is Key in Ending the Epidemic

Mental Resilience Against HIV Stigma is Key in Ending the Epidemic

Older man living with HIV feeling happy and healthy
SHUTTERSTOCK/VIIV WAD COLLECTION

New research highlights the unmet mental health needs of long-term survivors

A recent Rutgers study has highlighted the unmet needs of addressing psychological trauma experienced by aging people living with HIV.

Older patients who endured a time when HIV was considered a death sentence have a lot of fear and trauma around being treated. Although people with the virus are now living longer, healthier lives, the aging population faces many mental and psychosocial health challenges that not only impact their wellbeing but also the overall trajectory of the virus.

“Our findings support the need to target post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance dependence and use among the older HIV/AIDS-positive people and suggest that resilience might help increase adherence to antiretroviral therapy regimes,” said lead study author, Kristen D. Krause, in a statement.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence is also key to meeting the 2016 goal set by the United Nations to eradicate HIV by 2030.

Krause and a team of colleagues at the Rutgers Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) surveyed 250 HIV-positive gay men between 50 to 69 in New York City, recruited from dating apps, events, and organizations for the study. The resilience observed was the ability to thrive amid challenging situations.

Those with higher levels of HIV-related resilience were shown to be more likely to have lower levels of PTSD and substance dependence, as well as more likely to feel financially secure.

Around 16% of participants experienced PTSD, 14% met the criteria for serious depression, 18% reported a substance dependency, 18% suffered generalized anxiety, and 33% expressed suicidal tendencies.

“As we wait for a vaccine or a cure, it’s important to continue building a toolbox of methods and best practices to bring this epidemic to an end,” said Krause. “Resilience is one tool in that box.”

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