The impact of PTSD on pain experience in persons with HIV/AIDS

Meredith Y. Smith, Jennifer Egert, Gary Winkel, Jeffrey Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Pain is a common and pervasive symptom for persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Individuals with persistent pain are known to be at heightened risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that manifests itself following exposure to a traumatic event. Moreover, research suggests that patients with persistent pain who develop PTSD often experience greater pain intensity and pain-related disability than those who do not develop PTSD. The purpose of this study was to assess the relation of PTSD to pain intensity and pain-related interference in HIV-infected persons suffering from persistent pain. Study participants included 145 ambulatory persons living with HIV/AIDS (PWHAs) who were enrolled in a randomized clinical trial assessing the impact of a pain communication intervention. Participants completed a series of self-report measures including the Stressful Life Events Checklist (SLE), the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian (PCL-C), the Mental Health Inventory (MHI), and the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI). On average, participants reported being exposed to 6.3 different types of trauma over the course of their lifetime, of which receiving an HIV diagnosis was rated as being among the most stressful. Over half (53.8%) merited a PTSD diagnosis according to the PCL-C. Those with PTSD reported having significantly higher pain intensity and greater pain-related interference in performance of daily activities (i.e., working, sleeping, walking ability and general activity), and affect (i.e., mood, relations with other people, enjoyment of life) over time than those who did not meet the diagnostic criteria. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed along with implications for clinical care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002


  • AIDS
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Pain
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder


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