How trauma, recent stressful events, and PTSD affect functional health status and health utilization in HIV-infected patients in the south.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


In addition to biological markers of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease progression, physical functioning, and utilization of health care may also be important indicators of health status in HIV-infected patients. There is insufficient understanding of the psychosocial predictors of health-related physical functioning and use of health services among those with this chronic disease. Therefore, the current study examines how trauma, severe stressful events, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depressive symptoms are related to physical functioning and health utilization in HIV-infected men and women living in rural areas of the South.


We consecutively sampled patients from 8 rural HIV clinics in 5 southern states, obtaining 611 completed interviews.


We found that patients with more lifetime trauma, stressful events, and PTSD symptoms reported more bodily pain, and poorer physical, role, and cognitive functioning. Trauma, recent stressful events, and PTSD explained from 12% to 27% of the variance in health-related functioning, over and above that explained by demographic variables. In addition, patients with more trauma, including sexual and physical abuse, and PTSD symptoms were at greater risk for having bed disability, an overnight hospitalization, an emergency room visit, and four or more HIV outpatient clinic visits in the previous 9 months. Patients with a history of abuse had about twice the risk of spending 5 or more days in bed, having an overnight hospital stay, and visiting the emergency room, compared with those without abuse. The effects of trauma and stress were not explained by CD4 lymphocyte count or HIV viral load; however, these effects appear to be largely accounted for by increases in current PTSD symptoms.


These findings highlight the importance of addressing past trauma, stress, and current PTSD within clinical HIV care.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Leserman, J; Whetten, K; Lowe, K; Stangl, D; Swartz, MS; Thielman, NM

Published Date

  • May 2005

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 67 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 500 - 507

PubMed ID

  • 15911916

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1534-7796

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-3174

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1097/01.psy.0000160459.78182.d9


  • eng