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AIDS Care. 2009 Jan;21(1):64-9. doi: 10.1080/09540120802068795.

Art therapy for relief of symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS.

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  • 1Institute for Healthcare Studies, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.


Symptom management for persons living with HIV/AIDS is an extremely important component of care management. The importance of pharmacologic interventions for management of symptoms is well recognized, and non-pharmacologic strategies such as art therapy are gaining interest in lay and professional communities. The aim of this research project was to test the feasibility and effectiveness of art therapy for relief of symptoms experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS. In this randomized clinical trial of art therapy, the primary objective was to assess change in physical and psychological symptoms. Participants were recruited from a large urban hospital's inpatient population and outpatient HIV clinic. Seventy-nine people with a diagnosis of HIV infection provided socio-demographic information, participated in either a one-hour art therapy session or viewed a videotape about art therapy, and completed pre- and posttest measures of psychological and physical symptoms. Two separate analysis of covariance models were used to identify if the treatment condition influenced psychological and physical symptoms, after adjusting for pretest score, age, gender, and race/ethnicity. The analyses showed that physical symptom mean scores were better for those who participated in the art therapy compared to those who viewed the videotape, and this difference between conditions was statistically significant (p<0.05). Thus, the study demonstrated the potential benefits of one session of art therapy in relation to symptoms associated with HIV/AIDS.

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