Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 283–294 | Cite as

Using novel methods to examine stress among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men and women

  • Dorie A. Glover
  • John K. Williams
  • Kimberly A. Kisler


Biomarker composites (BCs) that objectively quantify psychosocial stress independent of self report could help to identify those at greatest risk for negative health outcomes and elucidate mechanisms of stress-related processes. Here, BCs are examined in the context of existing disease progression among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) with high stress histories, including childhood sexual abuse. Participants (N = 99) collected 12-h overnight and morning urine samples for assay of cortisol and catecholamines (primary BC) and neopterin (an indicator of HIV disease progression). Data on cumulative psychosocial trauma history (severity, types, frequency, age at first incident), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, sexual risk behaviors, and a secondary BC consisting of routine health indicators (heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio) were also collected. Lifetime trauma exposure was highly pervasive and significantly greater among those meeting a standard cutoff for PTSD caseness (24 %). After controlling for HIV factors (neopterin levels and years with disease), PTSD was a significant (p < .05) predictor of the primary, but not secondary BC. Those with PTSD also had significantly more sexual partners, sex without a condom, and exchange sex for money or drugs than those without PTSD. Specific trauma characteristics predicted PTSD severity and caseness independently and uniquely in regression models (p’s < .05–.001). A primary BC appears sensitive to cumulative trauma burden and PTSD in HIV-positive African American MSMW, providing support for the use of BCs to quantify psychosocial stress and inform novel methods for examining mechanisms of stress influenced health behaviors and disease outcomes in at-risk populations.


HIV African American Bisexual Biomarkers of stress Child sexual abuse 



This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (the ES-HIM Project [1 R34 MH077550]) and the Center for Culture, Trauma, and Mental Health Disparities (CCTMHD [5P50MH073453]). The authors would like to thank the collaborating community-based organizations and their staff members for input into the study design, assistance with recruitment, and the use of their facilities. These include the AmASSI Health and Cultural Center (Cleo Manago), JWCH Institute, Inc. (Sergio Avina), and Palms Residential Care Facility (Tony Wafford and Kevin Pickett). We also acknowledge Sean J. Lawrence, Frank Levels, and Les DeMorst for their work on the ES-HIM study and Muyu Zhang, MS, MA for managing the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorie A. Glover
    • 1
  • John K. Williams
    • 2
  • Kimberly A. Kisler
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human BehaviorUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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