Faculty Articles


Changes in immune and psychological measures as a function of anticipation and reaction to news of HIV-1 antibody status



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Psychosomatic Medicine





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We assessed changes in psychological and immunological functioning during 5-week periods preceding and following notification of serostatus among gay males taking the HIV-1 antibody test. Forty-six asymptomatic homosexual men between the ages of 18 and 40 yrs were recruited from a gay men's organization and through advertisements in a local newspaper. Measures of cell-mediated immunity (lymphocyte phenotypic markers, mitogen responsivity, and natural killer cell cytotoxicity) and psychological functioning (state anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and avoidant behaviors) were obtained at baseline, five weeks later and 72 hr before serostatus notification, and 1 week, 3 weeks and 5 weeks postnotification. Results suggested a dissociation between psychological and immunological phenomena among seropositives wherein lymphocyte proliferative responses to the mitogens phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and pokeweed mitogen (PWM) remained unchanged in the face of significant increases in state anxiety and intrusive thoughts following serostatus notification. These findings suggested that asymptomatic HIV-1 infected individuals, even at the earliest stages of infection, may be unable to mount an immune response to potent psychosocial stressors (i.e., serostatus notification), due perhaps, to the fact that the viral contribution to immune functioning overrides any influence of environmental stimuli. Among the seronegative subjects studied, blastogenic responses to PHA and PWM were depressed at baseline (relative to a group of age and gender-matched controls who were not undergoing HIV-1 antibody testing) but PHA values returned to normal values 5 weeks later. Natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity and CD4+CD45R+ inducer cell counts appeared to parallel these changes in seronegatives. Seropositives did display fluctuations in NK cell cytotoxicity that were similar to those noted for seronegatives. Correlational analyses suggested that individual differences in anxiety responses at the time of notification of seropositivity predicted subsequent (1-week lag) declines in NK cell cytotoxicity but not other functional markers. Although most seropositives displayed clinical levels of anxiety, intrusive thoughts and avoidant responses during the week of serostatus notification, these measures returned to their initial nonclinical baseline levels within 5 weeks after notification in both the seropositive and seronegative groups.


Medical Specialties | Medicine and Health Sciences | Osteopathic Medicine and Osteopathy

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