Objective: To evaluate the immediate and long-term effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on biological and symptomatological markers of health among human immunodeficiency virus-positive (HIV+) patients in Tehran, Iran.
Methods: Using a randomized controlled trial design, data from 173 HIV+ patients (CD4 count > 250) not yet receiving antiretroviral therapy, who participated in either an 8-week MBSR (n = 87) or a brief education and support condition (n = 86) at the Imam Khomeini Hospital, were analyzed. Assessments included CD4 count, Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90R), and Medical Symptom Checklist (MSCL) at baseline, immediate post-treatment, and at the 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month follow-up periods.
Results: The treatment-adherent sample had a mean (standard deviation) age of 35.1 (6.5) years and 69% were male. Linear mixed-model estimates indicated that, in the MBSR condition, the mean CD4 count increased from baseline up to 9 months after treatment and then returned to baseline level at 12 months. Improvements in mean SCL-90R (up to 6 months) and MSCL (up to 12 months) scores were observed for the MBSR condition, whereas education and support condition scores remained the same over time; however, only MSCL improvements significantly differed between groups and these changes lasted up to the final assessment.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that among treatment-adherent Iranian HIV+ patients not yet receiving antiretroviral drug treatment, MBSR seems to have the strongest potential to improve self-reported medical symptoms.
Trial registration: Iranian Registry of Clinical Trials: IRCT201106084076N2.