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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2013;46(1):57-83.

The psychological well-being of people living with HIV/AIDS and the role of religious coping and social support.

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Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.



This study examined correlates of depressive symptoms, particularly the role of religious coping (RCOPE), among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The study also examined social support as a possible mediator of the proposed association between religious coping and depressive symptoms and the impact of depressive symptomatology on health outcomes such as HIV medication adherence, immune function, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among PLWHA.


A convenience sample of 292 PLWHA were recruited from an out-patient infectious disease clinic and AIDS-service organizations in the Southeastern United States.


56.7% reported depressive symptoms. PLWHA with depressive symptomatology reported significantly poorer health outcomes, including poorer HIV medication adherence, lower CD4 cell count, and poorer HRQOL. The odds of being depressed was significantly associated with birth sex (female: OR = 0.43, 95% CI = .23-.80), sexual orientation (gay/bisexual: OR = 1.95, 95% CI = 1.04-3.65), marital status (single: OR = .52, 95% CI = .27-.99), social support satisfaction (OR = 0.65, 95% CI = .49-.86), and negative RCOPE (OR = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.14-1.31). Social support partially mediated the relationship between religious coping and depressive symptoms.


High rates of depressive symptoms are present in PLWHA, which negatively impact health outcomes. Religious coping, perceived stress, and social support satisfaction serve an important role in depressive symptomatology among PLWHA. These findings underscore the need for healthcare providers to regularly screen PLWHA for and adequately treat depression and collaborate with mental health providers, social workers, and pastoral care counselors to address PLWHA's mental, social, and spiritual needs and optimize their HIV-related outcomes.

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