For people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) positive social support networks (SSNs) can help improve quality of life, overall well-being, coping, and decrease mood disturbance, morbidity, mortality, sexual and substance associated HIV transmission risk factors. However, HIV diagnosis can cause a negative change in SSNs leading to social isolation (actual/perceived) and increase risk of HIV transmission behaviours. Having an effective strategy to encourage the development/maintenance of SSNs may have a positive effect upon the health outcomes and HIV transmission risk behaviours of PLWHA.
Objective To describe the SSNs of Manitobans living with HIV/AIDS (MLHA) and determine the influence of SSNs on transmission risk behaviour. The relationship between independent variable (size and type of SSNs- positive/negative) and dependant variables (sexual risk behaviour, and alcohol, injection and non-injection drug use) was examined. Control variables included: age, gender, ethnicity, time since diagnosis, and sexual orientation. This data was collected in the Positive Prevention Study (PPS), a cross-sectional survey which included 135 MLHA aged 18 plus. The PPS assessed a broad list of transmission related determinants and only enrolled people if they were aware of their HIV diagnosis for at least 6 months, allowing for analysis of sustained positive behavioural changes. For this analysis SAS statistical software was used. Analysis of variance was done between the size and type (positive/negative) of SSNs and the chosen transmission risk behaviours; sexual behaviour, alcohol use, injection and non-injection drug use. Analysis of covariance was conducted with independent, dependent and control variables. Multiple regression analysis was run with independent and dependent variables to determine any relation. Level of social support achievable depends on one's attachment to those in their SSN and the role they play. It is not just the quantity of people but also the quality of relationships (eg, frequency, perceived support) that defines the success of SSNs. Not all SSNs are positive; some types may increase transmission risk behaviour. Only positive SSNs (regardless of size) are associated with avoidance of transmission risk behaviours. The results of this study help to assess the degree to which SSNs affect the sustainability of long-term secondary prevention measures, and thus inform groups offering services to MLHA with local scientific evidence.
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