Posttraumatic growth in people living with HIV/AIDS: Psychological, spiritual and physical health-related outcomes

Jeremy J Eggleston, Fordham University


There has been recent interest in the positive psychological effects of traumatic experiences. Researchers have used the term ‘posttraumatic growth’ to signify personal growth following trauma and studies have demonstrated the existence of posttraumatic growth in a variety of trauma survivors. Little attention has been paid to those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Now entering the fourth decade of the AIDS epidemic, transmission rates are once again rising in gay and bisexual men. Individuals living with HIV/AIDS, especially gay and bisexual men, often face increased stigma and often report conflicted relationships with both religion and spirituality. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between posttraumatic growth, religious coping, spiritual well-being, psychiatric distress, health status, quality of life, and health behaviors such as medication adherence and sexual-risk taking. The study’s variables were assessed using the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996), the Brief Religious Coping Scale (Pargament, et al., 2000), the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Brady et al., 1999), the Brief Symptom Inventory (Derogatis, 1993), the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life for HIV, Brief Version (WHOQOL HIV Group, 2004), the AIDS Clinical Trails Group Adherence Follow-up Questionnaire (Chesney et al., 2000), and the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies Sexual Behaviors Questionnaire (Chesney, 1997). Participants included 191 males recruited from a large LGBT-identified Community Health Organization in Manhattan. Participants’ ages ranged from 21 to 69, with a mean of 39 (SD =12). 80% of the sample identified as an ethnic or racial minority, mirroring the current epidemic of HIV/AIDS. 30% of the population stated that they no longer identify with one religion. Results were analyzed using Pearson product-moment correlations, point biserial correlations, multiple linear regressions, and multiple logistic regressions. Posttraumatic growth was found to be significantly associated with positive religious coping, negative religious coping, spiritual well-being, psychiatric distress, health-related quality of life, and CD4 cell count. Positive religious coping was found to fully mediate several of these relationships. These results provide insight into improved avenues for addressing the continued spread of this disease despite informational and educational advances.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Eggleston, Jeremy J, "Posttraumatic growth in people living with HIV/AIDS: Psychological, spiritual and physical health-related outcomes" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3719352.