The relationship of coping strategies, affect, and immune function among individuals at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Michael H. Antoni, Committee Chair


The present study was an investigation of the relationships between coping strategies, affect and immune function among individuals at risk for the development of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Ninety-nine homosexual male volunteers whose Human Immunodeficiency Virus: Type 1 (HIV-1) antibody status tested: HIV-1 seronegative (n = 30); HIV-1 seropositive, asymptomatic (CDC-2) (n = 31); or HIV-1 seropositive, with persistent generalized lymphadenopathy (CDC-3) (n = 38), were compared on situational dispositional (CDC-3 subjects) coping strategies via the COPE inventory and on immune status (11 to 12 months later). Separate analyses were conducted between HIV-1 seronegative and CDC-2 subjects in order to investigate the impact of coping strategies (measured three weeks after subjects received HIV-1 antibody test results), on affect (measured two weeks later), and on five immune indices (measured 12 months from study entry). Subjects were assigned to one of three groups based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) disease classification criteria. Potential immunomodulatory confounds, including nutritional measures, drug and alcohol intake, sleep, aerobic fitness level, physical activity, and social support measures were not significantly different across groups. Data were collected from two longitudinal studies and were merged into one database for these analyses.Based on the analysis of coping strategies across groups, active coping strategies are preferential as compared to passive strategies. Disengagement coping strategies appear to be more prevalent for CDC-3 subjects as compared to the other two groups. Significant declines in CD4/CD8, PHA, PWM, and NK % cytotoxicity were observed in the CDC-2 and CDC-3 subjects as compared to the HIV-1 seronegatives. Moreover, CD4+% was significantly reduced in CDC-3 subjects as compared to the other two groups. Coping strategies were not significant predictors of immune measures in any of the three groups. Coping strategies related to affect as a function of serostatus, such that HIV-1 seronegative subjects reported higher anxiety and depression levels with higher passive coping scores, and generally lower levels of affective responses with higher active coping scores. In contrast, CDC-2 subjects reported higher depression levels with higher passive coping scores. Psychosocial factors seem to offer little or no influence on immune indices in CDC-3 subjects. Results support the notion that coping strategies have different relationships to affect and immune measures across groups. Behavioral and psychotherapeutic interventions targeted for individuals at risk for AIDS, should consider the differential patterns of coping and affective responses found among the three groups, as well as the possible impact of coping and affect on immune indices as a function of HIV-1 serostatus.


Psychology, Clinical; Psychology, Personality; Health Sciences, Immunology

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