Does perceived life stress mediate the association between HIV status and alcohol use?: evidence from adults living in Cape Town, South Africa

SOURCE: AIDS Care
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2013
TITLE AUTHOR(S): L.A.J.Scott-Sheldon, M.P.Carey, K.B.Carey, D.Cain, R.Vermaak, J.Mthembu, V.Mehlomakulu, L.C.Simbayi, S.C.Kalichman
KEYWORDS: ADULTS, ALCOHOL USE, CAPE TOWN, HIV/AIDS, SHEBEENS, STRESS
DEPARTMENT: HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB (HAST)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 7866

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Abstract

South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Because living with HIV is stressful and because alcohol consumption is often used to cope with stress, we examined whether stress mediates the association between HIV status and alcohol use among adults residing in South African townships. Field workers approached pedestrians or patrons of informal alcohol-serving venues (i.e., shebeens) and invited their participation in a survey. Of the 1717 participants (98% Black, 34% women, mean age = 31 years), 82% were HIV-negative, 9% were HIV-positive, and 9% did not know their test result. Participants living with HIV reported greater perceived life stress compared to participants whose HIV status was negative or unknown. Perceived stress was associated with an increase in the frequency of alcohol use (drinking days, intoxication, and drinking in shebeens/taverns). Subsequent analyses showed that stress mediated the association between HIV status and alcohol use. These findings indicate that greater frequency of drinking days, perceived intoxication, and drinking at shebeens was associated with elevated stress levels among participants who were HIV positive. Perceived life stress mediates the association between HIV status and alcohol use. Programs to enhance stress management among HIV-positive South Africans may help to reduce alcohol consumption, which may, in turn, lead to reduced rates of HIV transmission.