Purpose: The effectiveness of massage therapy on immune parameters was evaluated in young Dominican HIV+ children without current access to antiretroviral therapies.
Methods: Eligible children, who were followed at the Robert Reid Cabral Hospital (San Domingo, Dominican Republic), were randomized to receive either massage treatment or a control/friendly visit twice weekly for 12 weeks. Blood was drawn at baseline and following the 3-month intervention for determinations of CD4, CD8, and CD56 cell counts and percentage, along with activation markers (CD25 and CD69).
Results: Despite similar immune parameters at baseline in the two groups, significantly more of the control group exhibited a decline in CD4 cell count (>30%, p = 0.03), postintervention. The decrease was particularly evident in older (5-8 years) children in the control arm, who demonstrated a significant reduction in both CD4 and CD8 cell counts compared to massage-treated older children who remained stable or showed immune improvement. Additionally, a significant increase in CD4+CD25+ cells was observed over the 12-week trial in the massage-treated older children (p = 0.04) but not in the control group. In younger massage-treated children, (2-4 years old), a significant increase in natural killer cells was shown.
Conclusion: Together these findings support the role for massage therapy in immune preservation in HIV+ children.