Objective: To investigate associations between survival and use of psychological and spiritual activities practiced over 1 year in HIV-positive (HIV+) patients.
Method: Nine hundred one HIV+ adults living in the United States using at least 1 form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) completed a questionnaire 3 times between 1995 and 1998. Information on specific mind-body therapies included psychotherapy (group therapy, support groups, individual therapy) and spiritual therapies (self-defined "spiritual" activities, prayer, meditation, affirmations, psychic healing, visualizations). Subsequent death was ascertained from the National Death Index (NDI). Cox proportional-hazards regression assessed risk of death through 1999.
Results: Use of any psychological therapy reported in both the 6-month and 12-month follow-up questionnaires (1 year continuous use) was associated with a reduced risk of death (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.5, 95% CI: 0.3-0.9) adjusted for income, clinical acquired immune deficiency syndrome, CD4 count, smoking, alcohol use, and use of antiretroviral therapy or highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). The relationship between spiritual activities and survival was modified by use of HAART, which may reflect severity of illness. Individuals not currently using HAART and who participated in spiritual activities over the previous year were found to be at a reduced risk of death (HR: 0.4, 95% CI: 0.2-0.9) compared to those not practicing spirituality.
Conclusions: Participation in spiritual and psychological therapies may be related to beneficial clinical outcomes in HIV+ individuals, including improved survival. Due to the self-selection of therapies in this observational cohort, it is not possible to distinguish use of the therapies from other characteristics or activities of the people participating in them.