Hope protects bereaved, HIV-positive men

Bereaved, HIV-positive men stay healthier longer if they remain optimistic, a new study suggests. Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have found that hope serves as a vital asset for infected men who've lost a loved one to AIDS.

"Positive expectations regarding ones future health, feelings of confidence and optimism, and a greater sense of control over the disease are associated with a slower rate of progression of HIV-related illness," said Geoffrey M. Reed, PhD, head of the study.

Participants included 72 gay men with at least a three-year history of HIV infection but who had not yet developed classic HIV-related symptoms. The researchers measured their health and psychosocial status at the beginning of the study, and then for three years at six-month intervals. The researchers report the results of their study in the current issue of Health Psychology.

Nearly half the group developed one or more symptoms during this time. Which men became sick related strongly to individual attitudes and bereavement status.

Among the men who'd suffered an AIDS-related loss, 56 percent of those who expected their own infection to worsen developed symptoms. In contrast, only 42 percent of the more optimistic, bereaved men developed symptoms.

Regarding men who were not bereaved, symptoms appeared in 47 percent of pessimists and 47 percent of optimists. The deciding factor for symptom development within pessimists, therefore, seemed to be the recent death of a loved one.

All pessimists, by definition, harbored gloomy thoughts about HIV/AIDS. In explaining the vulnerability of bereaved pessimists, researchers speculate that HIV/AIDS-related fears surface most powerfully in men who witness the disease destroy a loved one.

"It is particularly important to identify factors that may prolong the health of the infected since medical science does not yet offer a cure for HIV," said Reed. "Therapeutic efforts that focus on the maintena

Contact: Tricia Alvarez
Center for the Advancement of Health

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