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Keywords:

  • HIV;
  • purpose in life;
  • depressive symptoms

Purpose: To examine relationships among purpose in life, HIV disease severity, demographic variables, and depressive symptoms in people living with HIV disease (PLWHIV). The hypothesis tested was that purpose in life is a stronger predictor of depressive symptoms than is HIV disease severity.

Design: Descriptive, correlational study using a convenience sample of 123 PLWHIV recruited from an urban infectious disease clinic in a university teaching hospital in the Southeast United States.

Methods: A self-administered questionnaire, including a sociodemographic tool, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and the Purpose in Life Scale (PIL), was used to collect data. Concurrent severity of HIV disease measures included HIV RNA viral load, CD4+ T-lymphocyte count, and the Revised HIV Medical Symptom Scale. Analytical methods included descriptive and inferential statistics and hierarchical regression analysis.

Findings: Depressive symptoms were greater and purpose in life was lower than in normative samples. Purpose in life was a stronger predictor of depressive symptoms than was HIV disease severity.

Conclusions: Purpose in life was more important than were laboratory markers of disease progression for predicting depressive co-morbidity. Results from this study indicate the need for routine assessment of depressive symptoms in PLWHIV. Purpose in life should be explored as a potential buffer for depressive symptoms.