A mixed-method study conducted among men who have sex with men (MSM) living with HIV in the Netherlands showed that one in three participants experienced a psychosocial burden of living with HIV, according to an article published in The Lancet HIV.
In the first part of the study, in-depth interviews were conducted with 18 MSM using semi-structured questions. Findings from these interviews were translated into quantifiable items measuring HIV-related burden on 7-point Likert scales. The resulting questionnaires were distributed via gay dating apps or sites and social media.
The researchers used descriptive analyses to report burden prevalence and to explore differences in burden among MSM diagnosed at different antiretroviral therapy periods. Sociodemographic determinants of burden were explored using multinomial logistic regression.
The interviewees revealed that aspects related to medicalisation and emotional consequences were burdensome temporarily after diagnosis, whereas aspects related to HIV status disclosure, stigma, and the sexual and social life were mentioned to be burdensome more persistently.
In the second part of the study, 135 (31%) of 438 online respondents reported that living with HIV was generally experienced as burdensome and 361 (82%) would be relieved if HIV could be cured. Furthermore, HIV resulted in feelings of anger in 61 (14%), sadness in 79 (18%), stress in 80 (18%), inferiority in 68 (16%), and loneliness in 74 (17%). Feelings of shame were reported by more than a quarter of respondents (n=112, 26%).
These findings serve as a reminder of the influence that HIV continues to have over the course of an individual’s life, despite ample biomedical advancements. The authors highlight the importance of cure research, stigma reduction programmes, and psychosocial guidance and counselling coupled with standard medical care for MSM living with HIV.