Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Sex and relationships for HIV positive women since HAART: a quantitative study
  1. S Lambert1,
  2. A Keegan2,
  3. J Petrak2
  1. 1Department of Medical Psychology, Essex County Hospital, Lexden Road, Colchester CO3 3NB, UK
  2. 2Clinical Psychology Services, Infection and Immunity, MED Barts and the London NHS Trust, Andrewes Unit, KGV Block, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London EC1A 7BE, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Sarah Lambert
 Department of Medical Psychology, Essex County Hospital, Lexden Road, Colchester CO3 3NB, UK;


Objective: To investigate current levels of sexual activity, enjoyment, condom use, and other factors affecting sexual behaviour in a sample of women living with HIV.

Method: Participants were self selected. A cross sectional design using semi-structured questionnaires was employed. 82 HIV positive women completed questionnaires asking about demographics, relationships, sexual behaviour, and safer sex practices. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and Golombok-Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction (GRISS) were administered.

Results: 28% of women had had no sexual partners since diagnosis. Mean time diagnosed was 69 months, range 4–191 months. Time since diagnosis was not associated with having had a sexual partner. 59% of women had a current sexual partner, half reporting intercourse in the past month. Infrequent sex (84%), avoidance (84%), non-communication (69%), and dysfunction (60%) were among the most prevalent sexual difficulties. Endorsement of HIV impaired sexual enjoyment was associated with reduced sexual frequency (p = 0.006) and sexual dysfunction (p = 0.042). Sexual dissatisfaction was associated with infrequency of sex (p = 0.037), avoidance (p = 0.02), and non-communication (p = 0.032). Clinically significant levels of anxiety and depression were reported in 60% and 38% of cases, respectively. Depression was associated with avoidance of sex and higher total GRISS scores (p = 0.006 and p = 0.042). 60% of respondents stated that they “always” used condoms; a trend was observed between reduced condom use and higher levels of depression and anxiety (p = 0.09 and p = 0.06, respectively).

Conclusion: Sexual difficulties, including abstinence, were prevalent in this sample indicating the potential for interventions addressing the psychosexual needs of HIV positive women and their partners.

  • GRISS, Golombok-Rust Inventory of Sexual Satisfaction
  • HADS, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale
  • IDU, injecting drug users
  • PI, protease inhibitors
  • HIV
  • women

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


Linked Articles

  • Editorial
    D Goldmeier A Kocsis M Wasserman