Effects of HIV infection, perceived health and clinical status on a cohort at risk for aids

Ronald C. Kessler*, Kerth O'Brien, Jill G. Joseph, David G. Ostrow, John P. Phair, Joan S. Chmiel, Camille B. Wortman, Carol Ann Emmons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Data from a general population sample of 621 healthy homosexual men are used to evaluate the social and emotional effects of HIV antibody status, clinical signs detected by medical examination, and subjectively perceived symptoms. Participants are unaware of their serologic status at the time of data collection, thus allowing the effects of the virus to be separated from reactions to the knowledge of serologic status. The data show that seropositivity for HIV is not associated with elevated levels of social or emotional impairment. Clinical signs lead to impairment in baseline data, but these effects do not persist at a second wave. This weakening suggests that the effects are mediated by psychological pathways rather than biologic ones. This suspicion is confirmed in further analyses, which show that the effects of clinical signs are mediated by subjectively perceived symptoms. These results show that neither social nor emotional impairment is likely to be a prodromal sign of HIV infection in otherwise healthy homosexual men. The substantial levels of distress found among these men is more directly influenced by psychological determinants than biologic ones. This suggests that physicians should be aware of the psychological toll imposed on gay men who develop health problems in the current atmosphere of uncertainty regarding risk of AIDS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-578
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1988


  • AIDS
  • distress
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • perceived stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of HIV infection, perceived health and clinical status on a cohort at risk for aids'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this