Religiousness and Spirituality Among HIV-infected Americans

Published in: Journal of Palliative Medicine, v. 8, no. 4, Aug. 2005, p. 774-781

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Karl Lorenz, Ron D. Hays, Martin F. Shapiro, Paul Cleary, Steven M. Asch, Neil S. Wenger

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PURPOSE: To describe the demographic and clinical factors associated with the importance of religiousness and spirituality among patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the United States. METHODS: Longitudinal study of a nationally representative cohort of 2266 patients receiving care for HIV infection surveyed in 1996 and again in 1998. Measures included 12 items assessing religious affiliation and attendance, the importance of religion and spirituality in life, and religious and spiritual practices. Multi-item religiousness and spirituality scales were constructed. RESULTS: Eighty percent of respondents reported a religious affiliation. Sixty-five percent affirmed that religion and 85% that spirituality was somewhat or very important in their lives. A majority indicated that they sometimes or often rely on religious or spiritual means when making decisions (72%) or confronting problems (65%). Women, nonwhites, and older patients were more religious and spiritual. Residents of regions other than the western United States reported higher religiousness. High school graduates were more religious and spiritual than those with less education. Patients who did not report one of the risk factors assessed for HIV infection had higher religiousness scores than injection drug users (IDUs). Women, nonwhites other than Hispanics, patients older than 45 years of age compared to those between 18 and 34 years of age, and more educated patients reported higher spirituality. Clinical stage was not associated with religiousness or spirituality. CONCLUSIONS: A large majority of HIV-infected patients in the United States affirm the importance of religiousness and spirituality. These findings support a comprehensive, humanistic approach to the care of HIV-infected patients.

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