Spirituality and Religion in Patients with HIV/AIDS
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 least 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; Po.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 (R2 =.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.