Pilot Award Recipient: Priscilla Dass-Brailsford, EdD

Photo of Priscilla Dass-Brailsford

Traumatic Life Experiences among Women with HIV and PTSD Comorbidity

March 01, 2012

The District of Columbia (DC) has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates (3%) in the U.S. and women accounted for 29% of all new HIV infections in 2009; 91% of them were African American women. Although 58% of HIV+ women in DC are linked to care within 3 months of diagnosis, they are 40% less likely than men to be in care during the 12-month period following diagnosis. Most of them are also at high risk of trauma exposure, which frequently lead to psychiatric conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When HIV and PTSD diagnoses co-occur, both psychological (eg. Risk-taking, substance use, poor eating habits, depression, social isolation) and physical functioning (eg. Diminished functioning of the immune system and increased susceptibility to infections) can be affected. Although trauma histories are a major risk factor in HIV care little is known about the relationship between these co-morbidities. Given the serious (public) health implications of this risk factor often associated with undiagnosed trauma history/PTSD, there is a critical need to better understand the co-morbidity between HIV/AIDS and PTSD among low-income minority women in Washington DC. Our objective in this pilot study is to identify most common forms of trauma exposure among HIV+ women in Washington DC and to explore their differential relationship to HIV-risk behaviors, health behaviors and health care utilization.