Gender differences in HIV-related psychological distress in heterosexual couples

C. A. Kennedy, J. H. Skurnick, D. B. Louria, M. Foley

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61 Scopus citations


In order to determine the effect of family support on the psychological well-being of heterosexual couples with at least one HIV-seropositive partner, family support data were obtained from couples, who were separately interviewed. Two hundred heterosexuals were interviewed (97 males, 103 females). 182 were partners in HIV serodiscordant couples (18 members were in 10 couples concordant for HIV-seropositivity). Overall, there were 76 HIV + males and 30 HIV + females. The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) was used to measure psychological distress. Sixty-five per cent of the subjects had family members aware of partners’ HIV infection, but only 50% of aware families were reported as supportive. Family support was not a significant predictor of distress. Gender was the most significant predictor of psychological distress as measured by the BSI subscales. Both HIV positive and HIV negative females had more distress than their male counterparts on several dimensions (somatization, obsessive-compulsive, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, phobic anxiety and paranoia), and on the General Severity Index (GSI) of the BSI (HIV-positives: p = 0.003; HIV-negatives: p = 0.01). Despite the general lack of association of family support with psychological distress, women in couples affected by HIV had more distress than men. The mental health needs of women clearly differ from men, and continued gender comparisons should be done to develop appropriate and effective interventions for these groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalAIDS Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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