Study: Anti-HIV drug adherence affected by sense of "punishment"

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 04 2002 1:00 AM ET

A study published in the journal Psychosomatics shows that one reason some HIV-positive people have difficulty in adhering to their anti-HIV drug regimens is that they have a negative attitude about the disease, even to the point of feeling that their infection is "punishment," AIDS Weekly reports. Steven A. Safren of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry and his colleagues examined how social support structures, coping ability, and a patient's beliefs about HIV can affect drug adherence. They assessed 84 HIV-positive patients to determine their perceived levels of depression, quality of life estimations, and self-esteem. The study subjects also were asked if they thought their illness was a "punishment."

The study found that a belief that HIV is a punishment was one of several variables related to depression and low self-esteem among the study participants, conditions which in turn were directly linked with the patient's ability to stick to his anti-HIV drug regimen. "The findings from the present study highlight the need for research addressing the effects of treatment for psychosocial issues such as depression, coping, and punishment beliefs about HIV on self-care and, in turn, eventual medical outcome," the researchers concluded.