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AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2009 May;23(5):323-30. doi: 10.1089/apc.2008.0194.

Characterizing social support: global and specific social support experiences of HIV-infected youth.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine, New York, New York 10016, USA.


This study examined the nature, type, and source of social support available to a diverse group of HIV-infected adolescents and the relationship between social support and depression. Data were obtained from the baseline assessment of Adolescent Impact, a behavioral intervention conducted in 2003-2006 involving 166 HIV-infected youth, ages 13-21, in care at four urban medical centers. Youth completed the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey, Beck Depression Inventory, and questions about HIV-specific social support including locus (family and friends) and type (structural, perceived, instrumental, and satisfaction). Linear regression modeling examined the relation between HIV-specific and general perceived social support, and between social support and depression. Participants were predominately minority (72% black and 20% Hispanic); perinatally infected (60% PIY), and female (53%). Most had someone to either remind them to attend (71%) or to bring them to clinic (60%), a majority family (53%) and fewer friends (4%). More youth reported being satisfied with family (64%) social support than that from friends (51%). Behaviorally infected youth (BIY) had significantly more friends who knew their serostatus than PIY (means = 4.5 and 1.7; p < 0.001), but received significantly less help from family in accessing care (p < 0.001). Satisfaction with family social support was the best predictor of general perceived social support with general perceived social support and behavioral mode of transmission the best predictors of depression. Regular screening of HIV-positive youth for social support needs, especially BIY, and identification of sources for social support should be a regular part of care.

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