Response to the trauma of receiving an HIV diagnosis: Relation among assumptive world view, hope, and posttraumatic growth in individuals living with HIV/AIDS



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Throughout its twenty-year history, HIV/AIDS has evolved from a disease considered to affect only gay men to one that impacts the lives of men, women, and children of different ages and from various backgrounds. HIV/AIDS is a complex and traumatizing disease, impacting those infected in unpredictable ways. Being diagnosed and living with a terminal illness is considered by many to be a psychologically traumatizing experience (Collins, Taylor, & Skokan, 1990; Folkman, Moskowitz, Ozer, & Park, 1997; Janoff-Bulman, 1989b; Schwartzberg, 1993), involving responses similar to such traumas as rape, incest, and the death of a loved one. The research on the traumatic effects of an HIV diagnosis has focused primarily on the caregivers of HIV+ individuals, rather than those infected with the disease. As medical treatment improves and extends the physical life of those infected, the emotional quality of life becomes an important issue to consider.
The current study examined the impact of receiving an HIV diagnosis, paying particular attention to the relation among assumptive world view, hope, and posttraumatic growth in those living with HIV/AIDS. The results indicated a positive relation exists among the three scales with the scores on hope and assumptive world view showing a significant positive correlation. Although the scores on the three scales did not differ by gender, age, sexual orientation, or time since diagnosis, significant differences were found according to ethnicity with Hispanic and Caucasian participants scoring significantly higher on the World Assumptions Scale than African Americans. The current study provides valuable insight into the coping process of HIV+ persons and can provide a preliminary understanding of this experience to those mental health professionals working with this population, as well as infected persons coming to terms with their diagnosis.


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