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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Relationship Functioning & Immune Health in HIV+ Latinas

  • Author(s): De la Garza Mercer, Felicia L.
  • et al.

Despite the fact that HIV infection has soared amongst heterosexual women of color, Latinas are consistently underrepresented in HIV research (Carmona, Romero & Loeb, 1999). Latinas are at increased risk for HIV due cultural inhibitions of condom use, idealized gender roles, and idealization of romantic relationships. Yet these relationships, when chronically stressful, can exacerbate mental health problems such as depression (Hammen, 2005), and long-term effects of poor immune response. This study aims to investigate the links between relationship functioning and immune functioning, as measured by CD4 cell count and prevalence of gynecological problems, over time and how depression may mediate these links, in both HIV+ and HIV- heterosexual Latinas. Its results will thus be useful in understanding and creating new public health prevention and intervention methods aimed at ethnic minority women. I am using a sample of HIV-positive (N=97) and HIV-negative Latinas (N=52) from the University of California-Los Angeles Charles Drew Medical Center Women and Family Project, a longitudinal study examining the impact of HIV on women’s lives (Wyatt & Chin, 1992). The data has been collected and I will analyze data across two years, using hierarchical linear modeling and focusing on measures of relationship quality, depression, CD4 t-cell levels, and gynecological problems. In accordance with the stress/social support hypothesis (Burman & Margolin, 1992), I predict that poor relationship functioning over time will be associated with decreased CD4 levels and a higher prevalence of gynecological problems, and that depression will mediate these associations.

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