, Volume 21, Issue 5 Supplement, pp S5-S13

Spirituality and religion in patients with HIV/AIDS

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Abstract

Background

Spirituality and religion are often central issues for patients dealing with chronic illness. The purpose of this study is to characterize spirituality/religion in a large and diverse sample of patients with HIV/AIDS by using several measures of spirituality/religion, to examine associations between spirituality/religion and a number of demographic, clinical, and psychosocial variables, and to assess changes in levels of spirituality over 12 to 18 months.

Methods

We interviewed 450 patients from 4 clinical sites. Spirituality/religion was assessed by using 8 measures: the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy—Spirituality-Expanded scale (meaning/peace, faith, and overall spirituality); the Duke Religion Index (organized and nonorganized religious activities, and intrinsic religiosity); and the Brief RCOPE scale (positive and negative religious coping). Covariates included demographics and clinical characteristics, HIV symptoms, health status, social support, self-esteem, optimism, and depressive symptoms.

Results

The patients’ mean (SD) age was 43.3 (8.4) years; 387 (86%) were male; 246 (55%) were minorities; and 358 (80%) indicated a specific religious preference. Ninety-five (23%) participants attended religious services weekly, and 143 (32%) engaged in prayer or meditation at last daily. Three hundred thirty-nine (75%) patients said that their illness had strengthened their faith at least a little, and patients used positive religious coping strategies (e.g., sought God’s love and care) more often than negative ones (e.g., wondered whether God has abandoned me; P<.0001). In 8 multivariable models, factors associated with most facets of spirituality/religion included ethnic and racial minority status, greater optimism, less alcohol use, having a religion, greater self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, and lower overall functioning (R 2=.16 to .74). Mean levels of spirituality did not change significantly over 12 to 18 months.

Conclusions

Most patients with HIV/AIDS belonged to an organized religion and use their religion to cope with their illness. Patients with greater optimism, greater self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, minorities, and patients who drink less alcohol tend to be both more spiritual and religious. Spirituality levels remain stable over 12 to 18 months.

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to declare.
An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11606-009-1052-3.