Psychological distress during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in an italian population living with HIV: An online survey

Nicoletta Ciccarelli, Roberto Cauda, Simona Di Giambenedetto, Francesca Lombardi, Alberto Borghetti, Massimiliano Fabbiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the psychological impact of the initial stage of the 2019 coronavirus (CO-VID-19) pandemic on people living with HIV (PLWH), a population at increased risk of psychological distress. PLWH participated in an online survey exploring demographic and clinical data, physical symptoms, con-tact history, knowledge and concerns, precautionary measures and additional information about COVID-19 during the first phase of the pandemic in Italy. The Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) (identifying the COVID-19 pandemic as a specific traumatic life event) and the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) also formed part of the survey. Out of 98 participants, 45% revealed from mild to severe psychological impact from COVID-19 according to IES-R. A lower percentage, instead, complained of significant levels of depression (14%), anxiety (11%) or stress (6%) according to DASS-21. Higher education, being unemployed, number of perceived COVID-19 physical symptoms, concerns about risk of contracting COVID-19 and the pandemic situation in Italy, and needing additional information to prevent COVID-19 infection were positively associated to a higher risk of negative psychological impact. More-over, among the participants, female gender, age, fewer years from HIV diagnosis and not being aware of their own viremia were associated to a higher risk of negative psychological outcomes. Almost half of our PLWH sample experienced significant levels of distress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women, elderly patients and those with recent HIV diagnosis appear to be the more psychologically fragile subgroups. Our findings could help identify patients most in need of psychological interventions to improve the wellbeing of PLWH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-64
Number of pages11
JournalLE INFEZIONI IN MEDICINA
Volume29
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Distress
  • Psychological impact
  • Mental health
  • Pandemic
  • HIV

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