Psychotherapy Among HIV Patients: A Look at a Psychoimmunological Research Study After 20 Years

  • Ann Schaefer
  • Gerhard Paar
  • Reinholde Kriebel
  • Karl-Heinz Stäcker


Even in the HAART era, the search for effective psychotherapeutic interventions continues, because psychosocial factors have a decisive impact on the biomarkers of an HIV infection, and patients continue to respond to treatment in a number of different ways. The presented study from 1990 to 1993 examines the impact of outpatient group therapy on the mental and physical well-being of HIV-positive gay and bisexual men in the early stages of the illness. The group concept focused on supportive-cognitive interventions and beneficially correlated stabilising and confronting elements. The intervention period was 4 months, with a follow-up after another 4 months. In the therapy group, well-being was significantly improved in comparison to the untreated group, while the immune status remained stable. In the pre-post comparison, a protective effect of the group therapy on illness management was evident in the responses to a stress interview. An adaptive response controlled by the sympathetic nervous system was found at the immunological level. This response matched that of an HIV-negative control group and is of interest for the understanding of somatization processes.


Psychoneuroimmunology HIV infection Gay men Group psychotherapy Supportive-cognitive interventions Stress management Illness progression Outcome 



Acquired immune deficiency syndrome


Highly active antiretroviral therapy


Human immunodeficiency virus



We would like to thank our scientific colleagues from the Clinic for Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology (Professor Dr. med. M. Goos, PD Dr. med. N.H. Brockmeyer, Dr. med. L. Mertins), the Centre for Internal Medicine (Prof. Dr. med. G. Brittinger, Dr. med. H.-P. Böck), the Institute of Immunology (Prof. Dr. med. H. Grosse-Wilde) and the Clinic for Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine (Prof. Dr. med. W. Senf) for their active support in the implementation of the research project.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann Schaefer
    • 1
  • Gerhard Paar
    • 2
  • Reinholde Kriebel
    • 2
  • Karl-Heinz Stäcker
    • 3
  1. 1.KölnGermany
  2. 2.EssenGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Essen-DuisburgEssenGermany

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