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21 December 2009
Optimism and spirituality behind HIV patients' improved outlook on life
by George Atkinson

A new study from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center backs-up earlier research that found some patients with HIV experience an improved quality of life following their diagnosis. The findings were published in the journal AIDS Patient Care and STDs.

"Approximately 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV," said lead researcher Joel Tsevat. "Substantial increases in life expectancy for people with HIV have sharpened the focus on their quality of life. Although many studies have examined quality of life in patients with HIV, little information is available comparing quality of life with HIV versus quality of life before being diagnosed."

Tsevat's team looked at demographic and clinical characteristics of patients, HIV-specific health status, symptoms, health concerns, spirituality/religion, social support, self-perception and levels of optimism. "In two interviews, conducted a year to 18 months apart, patients compared their current life with life before being diagnosed with HIV," he explained. "We found that many patients said their life is better than it was before their diagnosis, although results of such comparisons often change over time."

The results showed that 31 percent of patients surveyed said their lives were better after diagnosis, 28 percent said they were worse, and the remainder said their lives were about the same or that they were undecided. After a second interview, conducted 18 months later, approximately one-fifth of patients changed their answers to indicate life improvement after diagnosis, while one-sixth changed answers to reflect a feeling of life deterioration.

"Change in perception for the better was positively associated with religious coping, whereas change in perception for the worse was associated with factors such as the study site, sexual orientation, shorter duration of HIV, lower levels of spirituality and lower positive religious coping scores," Tsevat said. "The two main factors associated with the feeling that life has improved, relative to pre-diagnosis, were optimism and spirituality. Future work should explore whether interventions can improve quality of life among those with a less favorable view of life with HIV."

Surprisingly, Life Is "Better" For Some HIV Patients
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HIV Can Serve As Opportunity For Positive Change

Source: University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

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