December 8, 2009
After any disaster, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common psychological outcome. The researchers designed the current study to examine the effects of PTSD on disease progression among HIV-positive patients in metropolitan New Orleans, which was hit by Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 28, 2005.
One year after the hurricane, researchers interviewed a convenience sample of 145 HIV-positive patients who had returned to care at the city's HIV Outpatient Clinic. Clinical factors before and one and two years after the disaster were abstracted from medical records and compared by PTSD status.
Among participants, 37.2 percent had PTSD. Compared to those without PTSD, those with the disorder were more likely to have detectable plasma viral loads at both follow-up points, and they were more likely to have CD4 cell counts below 200 per cubic millimeter two years after the storm.
"Our findings corroborate the findings of others that PTSD accelerates HIV disease progression," the authors concluded. "Disaster planners should consider the special counseling and medication safeguard needs of HIV-infected persons."