Mindfulness-based stress reduction for HIV treatment side effects: a randomized, wait-list controlled trial

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Feb;43(2):161-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2011.04.007. Epub 2011 Sep 17.


Context: Advances in antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV offer life-extending benefit; however, the side effects associated with ART use negatively impact quality of life and medication adherence among people living with HIV.

Objectives: This study tested the efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for reducing ART symptoms and bother/distress related to ART side effects. Secondary aims were to test the impact of MBSR on medication adherence and psychological functioning.

Methods: Seventy-six people living with HIV who were actively taking ART and reported distress from ART-related side effects were randomly assigned to an MBSR program or a wait-list control (WLC) standard care condition. We measured side effects, ART adherence, perceived stress, depression, positive and negative affect, and mindfulness at three time points: baseline, three-month follow-up, and six-month follow-up. Side effects and related distress were assessed separately from other symptoms.

Results: Compared with a WLC, participants in the MBSR condition experienced a reduction in the frequency of symptoms attributable to ARTs at three months post-intervention (mean difference=0.33; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.01, 0.66; t(132)=2.04, P=0.044) and six months post-intervention (mean difference=0.38; 95% CI=0.05, 0.71; t(132)=2.27, P=0.025). MBSR participants also experienced a reduction in distress associated with those symptoms at three months post-intervention (mean difference=0.47; 95% CI=0.003, 0.94; t(132)=1.99, P=0.048) compared with the WLC condition.

Conclusion: MBSR is a promising approach for reducing HIV treatment-related side effects.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Meditation / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents