PTSD among people living with HIV/AIDS


Key take-home messages
  • A high proportion of men and women with HIV have experienced psychological trauma. Although there are no estimates of the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people living with HIV in Ontario or Canada, in the US estimates range from a low of 10% to a high of 74%. Women appear to have particularly high rates of abuse and trauma.
  • Traumatic stress is associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes, including poor adherence to medication, poor health-related functioning, more symptoms, faster progression of HIV disease, and lower quality of life.
  • A trauma-informed, trauma-sensitive care model that addresses barriers that people with a history of trauma experience when they access health care may help HIV care providers recognize and appreciate their patients’ distinct needs.
  • Screening and assessment of posttraumatic stress disorder — as well as referrals to evidence-based treatments — should be a standard of practice in HIV care settings, including emergency rooms, clinics and physician offices.
  • When caring for people who have experienced trauma, it is important for care providers to give patients a sense of control, allow them to make choices whenever possible and move at a speed that is acceptable to them — thereby fostering a sense of self-efficacy.
  • Most interventions for people living with HIV who have experienced posttraumatic mental illness incorporate psycho-education and strive to help patients develop adaptive coping and behavioural skills.


The Ontario HIV Treatment Network: Rapid Response Service




  • Population(s)
    • Women
    • General HIV+ population
  • Mental Health
    • Psychiatric disorders


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