This study reviewed 9,552 articles, 29 of which met its inclusion criteria, to determine aggregate rates of psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women living with HIV in the United States. The authors found that HIV-positive women – who face increasingly high rates of HIV-related morbidity and mortality – are exposed to trauma and suffer from PTSD at significantly higher rates than do women in the general population. The authors support their findings with numerous studies showing that trauma and PTSD predispose women to HIV infection, poor health outcomes once they are diagnosed with HIV, and higher transmission risk behaviors.
The authors reviewed articles that collected data on HIV-positive women's experiences with recent PTSD, intimate partner violence, adult sexual and physical abuse, childhood sexual and physical abuse, and lifetime sexual and physical abuse, among others. Women with HIV are five times more likely to suffer from recent PTSD than women in the national prevalence sample, and they are twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence. Estimates of childhood sexual and physical abuse for HIV-positive women are approximately twice that of the national sample.
These and other comparisons indicate that women with HIV are disproportionately affected by trauma, and the authors state that screening and referrals for recent and past trauma should be incorporated into HIV treatment.