Predictors of psychological response to the notification of HIV antibody status in a cohort of men at-risk for AIDS

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Clinical Psychology

First Committee Member

Theodore Millon - Committee Chair


This study was designed to examine the psychological and behavioral impact of HIV test notification and to determine psychosocial variables that moderate the impact of the news of a positive test result. The study utilized a pre-post, between groups design for three groups (N = 78): gay and bisexual men who test HIV positive, men who test HIV negative, and men who have elected not to be tested. The study assessed psychological functioning and sexual and health behaviors via self-report measures both before and after test result notification over 10 weeks. As hypothesized, results demonstrated that HIV positive men experience more symptoms of psychological distress at all time points, but especially immediately after test notification, when mean anxiety levels were in the clinical range. Higher levels of mood disturbance persisted among HIV positive men up to five weeks following their diagnosis. At entry into the study, seropositive men reported more dispositional anxiety than seronegative men, and more pessimism, social alienation, recent stress, preoccupation with bodily symptoms, and externally controlled health beliefs than the untested or HIV negative men. Factors found to moderate the emotional impact of the diagnosis of HIV infection included baseline social support satisfaction and post-diagnosis acceptance of the test results. Coping style was related to state anxiety in HIV positive men to entry into the study, but was not found to predict emotional distress post-diagnosis. Finally, mood disturbance and use of amyl nitrate inhalants during sexual activity were associated with unsafe sexual behavior. A short-term crisis intervention model for counseling HIV positive individuals appears to be a well-suited intervention approach for this group.


Psychology, Clinical

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