The Psychological and Social Consequences of HTLV-III Infection: Homosexuals in Orange County, CA

Kenneth Burton Kaisch, Utah State University


The purpose of this study was to identify the psychological and social consequences experienced by homosexual men who learn that they have positive results on the HTLV-III antibody test, but who have not yet developed AIDS or ARC. Employing a census survey of the membership of three California homophile organizations (n=1905), 30 HTLV-III positives and 55 negatives completed a biographical questionnaire, the IPAT Anxiety Scale Questionnaire, the IPAT Depression Scale, and the Coping Strategies Inventory. Results indicate that HTLV-III positives show considerable disorganization after hearing test results, have clinically high levels of anxiety (n=10), and clinically high levels of depression (n=14). Positives were also quite guarded about sharing the results of their testing, and experienced negative effects in social (n=15) and occupational functioning (n=10), and reported pervasive changes in their sexual activity (n=30). Twelve subjects reported suicidal ideation after they heard the results of their testing, but only one subject reported a suicide attempt. The methodological imitations of the study were examined, with an emphasis on the limitations of survey method and difficulties with the follow-up procedures. Speculations to account for the reported behaviors, implications for counseling HTLV-III positives, and suggestions for future research with this population were also discussed.