A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that HIV-positive people who are optimistic about their futures and their ability to control HIV infection are more likely to miss doses of their anti-HIV medications and are more likely to engage in unsafe sex than their less-optimistic HIV-positive peers, Reuters Health reports. Researchers William Holmes and Joseph Pace of the University of Pennsylvania say that while optimism in facing a chronic or deadly disease can sometimes assist patients in addressing the ailment, their data show that it may have negative consequences for people with HIV.
The researchers surveyed 220 HIV-positive people regarding their attitudes about their condition and their health practices. Respondents who indicated they were "relatively optimistic" about their futures were twice as likely as those saying they were "relatively pessimistic" to forget to take their medication as prescribed and nearly twice as likely to have unprotected sex. The researchers say that optimistic people may be so upbeat and focused on other aspects of their lives that their attention turns to a point that they lose attentiveness to the details of their HIV disease management. They recommend that doctors discuss both the positive and negative effects of an optimistic approach to battling HIV with their patients. "Anticipatory discussions with patients can act to help them develop insight about and vigilance against these potential problems," Holmes said.