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Official Journal of the Italian Society of Social Psychiatry
Indexed/Abstracted in: EMBASE, e-psyche, PsycINFO, Scopus
Online ISSN 1827-1731
De Bertolini C., Andreetto U.
Background. The aim of this study was to identify different psychological and psychopathological behavioral patterns in HIV- positive subjects classified according to the route of HIV infection (i.e., homosexuals, heterosexuals, or ex-drug-abusers). An attempt was also made to observe whether, and in what way, the presence and degree of psychological distress caused by HIV- positivity changes as the condition progresses towards full-blown AIDS.
Methods. The study was carried out at the Infectious Diseases Department of Padova and involved 314 HIV-positive subjects who were no longer, drug-abusers (i.e. who had not taken drugs for at least 3 years). To examine their psychological and psychopatological situation, we used the battery of psychometric tests contained in the Cognitive Behavioral Assessment (CBA 2.0), which relies on subjective (cognitive-verbal) reaction to enable an ample preliminary assessment of the subject's fundamental psychological and psychopathological features. It also enables information to be collected on areas of clinical relevance and allows for a thorough evaluation of the subject being examined, from which a personality profile can also be developed. The findings were processed using one-way analysis of variance by means of a comparison of the Z scores in the various scales.
Results. The overall sample was divided into the above-mentioned three main groups and each group was further divided according to the stage of the disease (LAS-ARC-AIDS). The results are reported separately for each group. Homosexuals: personality profiles were uninfluenced by the stage of the disease; there was a higher level of anxiety in all subjects, while the Depressive Quotient (QD) revealed statistically significant differences depending on the stage of the disease. Heterosexuals: no pathological personality traits emerged. High scores for anxious traits and depression tended, however, to be particularly high in patients in the ARC stage. Ex-drug-abusers: the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire revealed high scores for the subscale indicating the presence of psychoticism. The levels of anxious traits tended to be higher in the ARC stage. The DQ was higher than the general population.
Conclusions. Under the common denominator of HIV-positive patients, there are people that differ considerably as regards by the means by which they became infected, the strength of their ego and the social support they enjoy. On the basis of these factors and the clinical progress of the disease, psychopathological conditions may develop demanding psychiatric attention. Our study demonstrated that frank psychiatric pathologies may develop at various stages of the infection, also depending on the route of infection, which often correlates with certain personality traits. The ARC stage appears to be significantly more crucial, representing the time when patients come to face with the disease and consequently have to not only implement organic adjustments but also change the defence mechanism they had hitherto adopted.