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AIDS Behav. 2010 Apr;14(2):339-50. doi: 10.1007/s10461-009-9549-7. Epub 2009 Apr 7.

Stress biomarkers as outcomes for HIV+ prevention: participation, feasibility and findings among HIV+ Latina and African American mothers.

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  • 1Semel Institute, Child Division, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, 760 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.


Mothers living with HIV (MLH) are at high risk for acute and chronic stress, given challenges related to their HIV status, ethnicity, economic and urban living conditions. Biomarkers combined into a composite index show promise in quantifying psychosocial stress in healthy people, but have not yet been examined among MLH. According, we examined potential biomarker correlates of stress [cortisol and catecholamines from home-collected urine and basic health indicators (blood pressure, height and weight, waist-to-hip ratio) measured during an interview] among 100 poor African American and Latina mothers MLH and demographic-matched control mothers without HIV (n = 50). Participants had been enrolled in a randomized controlled trial about 18 months earlier and had either received (MLH-I) or were awaiting (MLH-W) the psychosocial intervention. Participation was high, biomarkers were correctly collected for 93% of cases, and a complete composite biomarker index (CBI) calculated for 133 mothers (mean age = 42). As predicted, MLH had a significantly higher CBI than controls, but there was no CBI difference across ethnicity or intervention group. CBI predicted CD4 counts independently after controlling for age, years since diagnosis, prior CD4 counts, medication adherence, and depression symptoms. The study demonstrates acceptability, feasibility and potential utility of community-based biomarker collections in evaluating individual differences in psychosocial stress.

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