Adolescents and young adults who acquired HIV at birth are more likely to attempt suicide than their HIV-negative peers, according to the first study dedicated to evaluating suicide risk among youth living with HIV. Those facing stigma and other hardships in life are even more likely to try to take their lives, researchers reported last week at the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) in Montreal.
The unique circumstances for young people with HIV are part of a larger problem of youth suicide, which has ballooned in recent decades. Suicide is now the second most common killer of adolescents and young adults, claiming the lives of more than one in 10,000 each year.
Though suicide can affect anyone, certain experiences can heighten the risk. Among young people living with HIV, feeling stigma about their status can be associated with suicide attempts. Other hardships, like dealing with mental illness, pregnancy, a history of arrest, city stress and other negative life experiences are also associated with higher rates of suicide attempts in this group.
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Coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis is rarely as easy as “just dealing with it.”
Depending on where you’re diagnosed, when you’re diagnosed, who you are, and where your life is, it can be a huge challenge to figure out how to make sense of living with HIV. It’s a process that can easily take years, and involves a ton of factors: your emotional health, your physical well-being, your support network — not to mention potential issues with family life, access to health care, housing, substance use, and so many other concerns.
We asked Latinx people living with HIV in the U.S.: How did you come to terms with your HIV diagnosis and develop the confidence to stay healthy? Here are the stories they shared.
Read the article on thebody.com.
Everyone deals with a certain amount of stress every day. But if you are a woman living with HIV (HIV+), stress can become overwhelming. Long periods of high stress can damage your immune system and cause physical and emotional illnesses. Research has shown that stress can speed up the progression of HIV.
In the U.S., recent studies have shown that women living with HIV are five times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and two times more likely to have survived domestic violence than women in the general population who are not living with HIV. In addition, women living with HIV who experienced recent trauma were four times more likely to stop adhering to their HIV drug regimens and to have higher viral loads than women living with HIV who did not experience trauma.
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No one living with HIV/AIDS is immune from the impact of isolation. Numerous studies find that social isolation is a problem among the aging population in general, and especially among the elderly living with HIV. Younger persons are also affected. One study found that younger people living with HIV/AIDS experience more disconnectedness from family and friends than their older peers do. Researchers believe this is due to a combination of factors, including stigma, feeling blamed by others for their illness and younger people not identifying with the need to battle a chronic illness. It should also be noted that persons affected by HIV/AIDS, especially those who went through the 1980s and 1990s, can experience the same symptoms of trauma and isolation as people who are HIV-positive.
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