Sexual Relationship Power and Depression among HIV-Infected Women in Rural Uganda

Abigail M. Hatcher, Alexander C. Tsai, Elias Kumbakumba, Shari L. Dworkin, Peter W. Hunt, Jeffrey N. Martin, Gina Clark, David R. Bangsberg, Sheri D. Weiser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: Depression is associated with increased HIV transmission risk, increased morbidity, and higher risk of HIV-related death among HIV-infected women. Low sexual relationship power also contributes to HIV risk, but there is limited understanding of how it relates to mental health among HIV-infected women. Methods: Participants were 270 HIV-infected women from the Uganda AIDS Rural Treatment Outcomes study, a prospective cohort of individuals initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Mbarara, Uganda. Our primary predictor was baseline sexual relationship power as measured by the Sexual Relationship Power Scale (SRPS). The primary outcome was depression severity, measured with the Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL), and a secondary outcome was a functional scale for mental health status (MHS). Adjusted models controlled for socio-demographic factors, CD4 count, alcohol and tobacco use, baseline WHO stage 4 disease, social support, and duration of ART. Results: The mean HSCL score was 1.34 and 23.7% of participants had HSCL scores consistent with probable depression (HSCL>1.75). Compared to participants with low SRPS scores, individuals with both moderate (coefficient b = -0.21; 95%CI, -0.36 to -0.07) and high power (b = -0.21; 95%CI, -0.36 to -0.06) reported decreased depressive symptomology. High SRPS scores halved the likelihood of women meeting criteria for probable depression (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44; 95%CI, 0.20 to 0.93). In lagged models, low SRPS predicted subsequent depression severity, but depression did not predict subsequent changes in SPRS. Results were similar for MHS, with lagged models showing SRPS predicts subsequent mental health, but not visa versa. Both Decision-Making Dominance and Relationship Control subscales of SRPS were associated with depression symptom severity. Conclusions: HIV-infected women with high sexual relationship power had lower depression and higher mental health status than women with low power. Interventions to improve equity in decision-making and control within dyadic partnerships are critical to prevent HIV transmission and to optimize mental health of HIV-infected women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere49821
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 29 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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