As many as one-quarter of adults living with HIV may have been sexually abused as a child, new research suggests.
The Duke University study of more than 600 people with HIV found 1 in 4 had been abused and linked traumatic childhood experiences to riskier sex practices and worse health outcomes
More than half of the patients -- aged 20 to 71 - in the Coping with HIV/AIDS in the Southeast study had experienced sexual or physical abuse in their lifetimes, according to researchers from the Duke Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research. Half also reported experiencing three or more lifetime traumatic experiences, such as witnessing domestic violence as a child, a parent's suicide or losing a child.
"For whatever outcome we looked at, psychological trauma ended up being a predictor of worse medical outcomes and poorer health-related behaviors," said lead author Brian Pence.
Over a two-year period, the study linked traumatic experiences with HIV-related behaviors and worse health outcomes. Traumatic experiences including a history of sexual abuse were associated with instances of unprotected sex, missing antiretroviral medications, recent emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Those patients who had experienced trauma were more likely to see their health decline or to die during the study period.
The study, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.