Psychological Risk Factors for HIV Infection
How people think and feel influences how they behave.
Psychological factors like beliefs, attitudes, personality, coping styles,
and other psychological characteristics influence whether people engage
in high-risk behaviors.
People who think AIDS is a relatively minor or remote problem are not
likely to take steps to reduce their risks (1).
People who think that they personally are not at risk for HIV infection
(have a low perceived susceptibility to HIV infection) are more likely
to engage in risky behaviors (1).
Low self-esteem, neuroticism (preoccupation with the self), antisocial
(the tendency to do things suddenly, without thinking about the consequences
of the action), tendency to take risks, and tendency to seek out new
sensations are related to sexual risk-taking behavior (1).
To escape from stress, some people engage in high-risk sexual behaviors
or use drugs and alcohol, just as others may smoke cigarettes or overeat
to relieve stress (1,2).
Psychological disorders such as personality disorders, self-destructive
behaviors, hyper-sexuality, sexual obsession and compulsivity, depression,
anxiety, and negative states of mind (e.g., anger, pessimism) are associated
with high-risk sexual behaviors with multiple partners (1). They are
also associated with another psychological risk factor for risky behavior:
drug abuse and addiction.
1. Kalichman, S.C. Preventing AIDS. A Sourcebook for Behavioral Intervention.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998.
2. Zierler, S. & Krieger, N. Social Inequality and HIV Infection
in Women. In The Emergence of AIDS: The Impact on Immunology, Microbiology,
and Public Health, K.H. Mayer & H.F. Pizer (eds.). Washington, DC:
American Public Health Association, 2000.