Heterosexuals currently comprise the third largest exposure group of HIV/AIDS individuals in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, in a five-year period in the United States from 1991 to 1996, the proportion of adults with HIV/AIDS due to heterosexual contact increased from 8.5% to 17.5%. Heterosexuals with HIV/AIDS are becoming an increasingly visible, chronically ill population, and couples coping with HIV/AIDS face difficult personal and relationship issues.

This study examined the effectiveness of a six-week psychoeducational group for heterosexual HIV serodiscordant couples. The six couples who comprised the experimental group were compared to the six couples in the comparison group at pretest and posttest on depression, anxiety, and marital satisfaction. Data were analyzed utilizing separate univariate ANCOVA analyses. The results indicated that the group intervention was effective in alleviating depression and anxiety. Marital satisfaction also increased as a result of the intervention. Moderate effects due to the intervention were found for depression and anxiety while strong effects were found for marital satisfaction. These findings differed from previous studies of psychoeducational intervention with other populations of persons living with HIV/AIDS. Previous studies indicated that the intervention had strong effects on reducing anxiety and depression whereas the current study indicated that the intervention only had moderate effects. It is possible that heterosexual couples coping with HIV/AIDS need an extended group intervention in order to deal with all the issues involved in an intimate relationship while coping with HIV/AIDS.

University Research Institute, The University of Texas at Austin