Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Area of Focus

Social Sciences

Abstract

Children and adolescents who are impacted by HIV are a vulnerable and vastly understudied population. This is one of the first studies to research mental health issues faced by youth with HIV and to explore the link between HIV and mental health in those between the ages of 8 and 19. Norm-referenced measures of psychological issues were collected from a sample of youth, who are infected with HIV and affected by HIV (i.e., have an infected family member). This topic is relevant to those outside of the discipline of psychology because it highlights the impact of chronic illness on the functioning of youth. Further, a goal of this project is to decrease stigma and increase awareness about youth in the United States who are impacted by HIV.

HIV is now considered a chronic illness due to advances in medical treatment, and there has been limited research into the mental health problems that can arise from living with HIV, particularly among youth. Past research has demonstrated that posttraumatic stress disorder can be a result of experiences related to chronic illness. The present study will examine the mental health issues faced by both HIV-positive youth and those who are affected by HIV, specifically the extent to which they experience traumatic events.

Data collection for this project was completed in collaboration with a nonprofit organization that runs a camp for youth who are impacted by HIV. The camp coordinator assisted the first author with data collection by distributing hardcopy packets of study measures to a mailing list of camp participants. Additionally, an online survey link was distributed via a camp listserv. Deidentified data was returned to the first author for analysis.

This study is the first to the author’s knowledge to examine the relation between posttraumatic stress and HIV in youth under the age of 18. Results include measures of trauma exposure and symptoms and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and distress. For instance, youth impacted by HIV reported experiencing an average of 5.2 traumatic events, including both HIV- and non-HIV-related events. The most commonly reported traumatic event was receiving the HIV diagnosis of someone close to the participant (74.3%), and 50% of participants have experienced the death of someone close to them as a result of HIV/AIDS.

Given the scarcity of research among youth who are impacted by HIV, the present study will contribute to the field in several ways. Patient care may be enhanced by informing education initiatives that enrich care professionals’ awareness of the potential link between HIV, posttraumatic stress, and other mental health issues in youth and how to identify vulnerability, offer follow-up, and refer patients for specialist psychological treatment (Theuninck et al., 2010). Further, both parents and youth will benefit from education to help those impacted by HIV to recognize their vulnerability and identify posttraumatic stress symptoms (Theuninck et al., 2010). Findings from the study may benefit the nonprofit organization relative to their programming and treatment offerings.

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Apr 14th, 10:40 AM Apr 14th, 11:00 AM

Living with HIV: A Potential Source of Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents who are impacted by HIV are a vulnerable and vastly understudied population. This is one of the first studies to research mental health issues faced by youth with HIV and to explore the link between HIV and mental health in those between the ages of 8 and 19. Norm-referenced measures of psychological issues were collected from a sample of youth, who are infected with HIV and affected by HIV (i.e., have an infected family member). This topic is relevant to those outside of the discipline of psychology because it highlights the impact of chronic illness on the functioning of youth. Further, a goal of this project is to decrease stigma and increase awareness about youth in the United States who are impacted by HIV.

HIV is now considered a chronic illness due to advances in medical treatment, and there has been limited research into the mental health problems that can arise from living with HIV, particularly among youth. Past research has demonstrated that posttraumatic stress disorder can be a result of experiences related to chronic illness. The present study will examine the mental health issues faced by both HIV-positive youth and those who are affected by HIV, specifically the extent to which they experience traumatic events.

Data collection for this project was completed in collaboration with a nonprofit organization that runs a camp for youth who are impacted by HIV. The camp coordinator assisted the first author with data collection by distributing hardcopy packets of study measures to a mailing list of camp participants. Additionally, an online survey link was distributed via a camp listserv. Deidentified data was returned to the first author for analysis.

This study is the first to the author’s knowledge to examine the relation between posttraumatic stress and HIV in youth under the age of 18. Results include measures of trauma exposure and symptoms and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and distress. For instance, youth impacted by HIV reported experiencing an average of 5.2 traumatic events, including both HIV- and non-HIV-related events. The most commonly reported traumatic event was receiving the HIV diagnosis of someone close to the participant (74.3%), and 50% of participants have experienced the death of someone close to them as a result of HIV/AIDS.

Given the scarcity of research among youth who are impacted by HIV, the present study will contribute to the field in several ways. Patient care may be enhanced by informing education initiatives that enrich care professionals’ awareness of the potential link between HIV, posttraumatic stress, and other mental health issues in youth and how to identify vulnerability, offer follow-up, and refer patients for specialist psychological treatment (Theuninck et al., 2010). Further, both parents and youth will benefit from education to help those impacted by HIV to recognize their vulnerability and identify posttraumatic stress symptoms (Theuninck et al., 2010). Findings from the study may benefit the nonprofit organization relative to their programming and treatment offerings.