Resilience and HIV: a review of the definition and study of resilience

AIDS Care. 2018 Aug;30(sup5):S6-S17. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2018.1515470. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


We use a socioecological model of health to define resilience, review the definition and study of resilience among persons living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLWH) in the existing peer-reviewed literature, and discuss the strengths and limitations of how resilience is defined and studied in HIV research. We conducted a review of resilience research for HIV-related behaviors/outcomes of antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, clinic attendance, CD4 cell count, viral load, viral suppression, and/or immune functioning among PLWH. We performed searches using PubMed, PsycINFO and Google Scholar databases. The initial search generated 14,296 articles across the three databases, but based on our screening of these articles and inclusion criteria, n = 54 articles were included for review. The majority of HIV resilience research defines resilience only at the individual (i.e., psychological) level or studies individual and limited interpersonal resilience (e.g., social support). Furthermore, the preponderance of HIV resilience research uses general measures of resilience; these measures have not been developed with or tailored to the needs of PLWH. Our review suggests that a socioecological model of health approach can more fully represent the construct of resilience. Furthermore, measures specific to PLWH that capture individual, interpersonal, and neighborhood resilience are needed.

Keywords: HIV; Resilience; multilevel; socioecological model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Support
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-HIV Agents