Background: The primary aim of this study is to examine prospectively the association of stressful life events, social support, depressive symptoms, anger, serum cortisol and lymphocyte subsets with changes in multiple measures of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease progression.
Methods: Ninety-six HIV-infected gay men without symptoms or anti-retroviral medication use at baseline were studied every 6 months for up to 9 years. Disease progression was defined in three ways using the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifications (e.g. AIDS, clinical AIDS condition and mortality). Cox regression models with time-dependent covariates were used, adjusting for control variables (e.g. race, age, baseline, CD4 T cells and viral load, number of anti-retroviral medications).
Results: Higher cumulative average stressful life events and lower cumulative average social support predicted faster progression to both the CDC AIDS classification and a clinical AIDS condition. Higher anger scores and CD8 T cells were associated with faster progression to AIDS, and depressive symptoms were associated with faster development of an AIDS clinical condition. Higher levels of serum cortisol predicted all three measures of disease progression.
Conclusions: These results suggest that stressful life events, dysphoric mood and limited social support are associated with more rapid clinical progression in HIV infection, with serum cortisol also exerting an independent effect on disease progression.