Objective: Current epidemiological research indicates that HIV/AIDS endures and continues to be a significant vulnerability among adolescents and youths despite the increased access to antiretroviral drugs and the reduction in the global progression of the disease. This study examined the association between substance use and psychological distress within the Jamaican population of youths coping with the illness.
Method: This is a cross-sectional survey that utilized a correlational design. The sample population consisted of 62 youths, age range 15–25 years, living with HIV/AIDS. Sociodemographic information was gathered through interviews and self-report scales were used to measure depression, anxiety, stress and substance use. Chi-square was used to assess the relationship between the variables under study: psychological distress and substance use.
Results: More than half the sample were heterosexuals who contracted the virus through consensual intercourse. The average age of respondents was 21.29 years and slightly more than half were female (56.5%). The majority of respondents were single (54.8%), unemployed (73%), heterosexual (69.4%) youths with a secondary level education (63%). There was a statistically significant relationship between psychological distress and substance use (χ2 = 7.3959, df = 3, p = 0.047).
Conclusion: The emotional needs of youths living with HIV/AIDS are just as important as their medical needs.