EurekAlertAdults living with HIV in Washington, D.C., were more likely to feel higher levels of emotional and physical well-being if they attended religious services regularly, prayed daily, felt “God’s presence,” and self-identified as religious or spiritual, according to research published online Jan. 29, 2020, in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.By contrast, patients living with HIV who had the lowest levels of quality of life and more mental health challenges were privately religious, potentially eschewing organized religion due to fears about being stigmatized or ostracized.“These findings are significant because they point to the untapped potential of encouraging patients living with HIV who are already religious to attend religious services regularly. Scientific evidence suggests that religions that present God as all-powerful, personal, responsive, loving, just and forgiving make a difference in health-related quality of life. By contrast, belief systems and religions that see God as punishing, angry, vengeful and distant and isolate members from their families and the larger community do not have health benefits or contribute to health-related quality of life. People who identify as spiritual also benefit from improved overall health-related quality of life,” says Maureen E. Lyon, Ph.D., FABPP, a clinical health psychologist at Children’s National Hospital, and senior study author.“In general, patients living with HIV have reported that they wished their health care providers acknowledged their religious beliefs and spiritual struggles. Additional research is needed to gauge whether developing faith-based interventions or routine referrals to faith-based programs that welcome racial and sexual minorities improve satisfaction with treatment and health outcomes,” Lyon adds.More than 1 million people in the U.S. live with HIV, and in 2018, 37,832 people received an HIV diagnosis in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2017, the Washington, D.C., region recorded one of nation’s highest rates of new cases of HIV: 46.3 diagnoses per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.A research team that includes current and former Children’s National faculty wanted to learn more about the degree of religiousness and spirituality reported by people living with HIV and the interplay between religion and health-related quality of life. They recruited patients to participate in a clinical trial about family-centered advance care planning and enrolled 223 patient/family dyads in this study.Fifty-six percent of patients were male. Eighty-six percent were African American, and their mean age was 50.8. Seventy-five percent were Christian.
The researchers identified three distinct classes of religious beliefs:Class 1, the highest level of religiousness/spirituality, applied to people more likely to attend religious services in person each week, to pray daily, to “feel God’s presence” and to self-identify as religious and spiritual. Thirty-five percent of study participants were Class 1 and tended to be older than 40.Class 2 applied to privately religious people who engaged in religious activities at home, like praying, and did not attend services regularly. Forty-seven percent of study participants were Class 2.Class 3 participants self-identified as spiritual but were not involved in organized religion. Nearly 18 percent of study participants were Class 3, the lowest overall level of religiousness/spirituality.Class 1 religiousness/spirituality was associated with increased quality of life, mental health and improved health status.“Being committed to a welcoming religious group provides social support, a sense of identity and a way to cope with stress experienced by people living with HIV,” Lyon says. “We encourage clinicians to capitalize on patients’ spiritual beliefs that improve health – such as prayer, meditation, reading spiritual texts and attending community events – by including them in holistic treatment programs in a non-judgmental way.”
What’s more, the research team encourages clinicians to appoint a member of the team who is responsible for handling religiousness/spirituality screening and providing referrals to welcoming hospital-based chaplaincy programs or community-based religious groups.“This is particularly challenging for HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men, as this group faces discrimination related to race and sexual orientation. Because HIV infection rates are increasing for this group, this additional outreach is all the more important,” she adds.In addition to Lyon, study co-authors include Biostatistician Jichuan Wang, Ph.D., and Yao I. Cheng, MS., both of Children’s National; and Lead Author Katherine B. Grill, Ph.D., the former clinical coordinator for this randomized clinical trial who is currently an adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies.PAT SAYSIt’s interesting that this science based approach found that being religious helps.people to cope better with HIV.I hope those people being helped are spiritual as well as religious?But that does not surprise me because I believe that having a spirituality helps everyone with any and every challenge in life.Of course an atheist may find themselves by their philosophy of life.HIV has not been a terminal illness for years since the discovery of the ANTIRETROVIRAL drugs. HIV has no affect on longevity anymore.It is a perfectly manageable condition and people living with it are living well into their 80s.The oldest HIV patient I know is 84 and cycles everyday and plays moderate squash games twice a week.Thank God for the gifts of medicine and science.Thank God for the gift of spirituality.


+Pat, thanks for this post. It’s a reflective intervention like this which makes this blog so useful and which brings me back here for a look each day.


Hi Pat
Could you pls tell us more about your experiences with the dark side on three occasions that you mentioned in here a while back…


God is not a figment of the imagination. The world is going full circle. Psychological affirmation. Are we on the verge of admitting God is cool or P C at the moment. What a shower of gobshytes we are How do religious types justify their existence if for them God is an optional extra to the package (hi)


As a rampant hetro can I say hurrah that same sex marriage is now legalised in wee black Ulster. The oul DUP’s up in the Bible Belt must be looking on with some disgust.
I’m surprised they hadnt been asking Junior to intervene but I suppose he might well have been away on a wee holiday at the time


I, too, am happy at the legalisation here of same-sex marriage.

A tiny brickbat: I wish married gay couples would stop referring to their staus as ‘husband and husband’, or ‘wife and wife’. Sounds silly.

Spouse and spouse?





Learn to pronounce


a married man considered in relation to his spouse.

“she and her husband are both retired”


Learn to pronounce
a married woman considered in relation to her spouse.

I too cringe at the terms husbands and wives for same sex marriages. I prefer partner.


That is why it is so important for priests and seminarians to take precautions, Bp Pat. Of course, most of them will know about PrEP and how it reduces the risk of getting HIV.

Unfortunately, I am too old now, Bp Pat, but priests and seminarians will still be taking risks without PrEP when they are cruising the Meadow at Lourdes, for example, or meeting guys online or at Pride, or going to gay pubs, clubs, saunas, dirty cinemas, truck stops, etc., and, of course, the gents. Lucky beggars!

It’s only £19.00 a month, a small price for parishioners to pay.


Priests and I dare say, bishops too can get PrEP free on prescription in Scotland, and I imagine many of them do, the younger ones mostly.


Rofl I love the comment about parishioners paying for it.
Prep only protects against HIV and will not protect against the new strains of diseases like gonorrhoea which are difficult to treat. The best protection in sex whether anal or vaginal, remains condoms.


Many studies have shown that people of a religious/spiritual outlook and who frequent services are mire positive and joyful in their lives. They are strengthened by a community of like minded people and find great solace in prayer and religious gatherings. It’s been my experience in ministry that people if a consistent faith perspective are very contented I individuals. Presently in the Parish I wirk in I am inspired by the incredible inner fortitude, resilience and strength of the older parishioners. There are women and men in their 80′, 90’s and close to 100 who are amazing daily church goers and who frequent our parish centre for tea/coffee and activities every morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Many of them have suffered losses, grief, heartbreak and illnesses but their joyfulness and contentment is inspirational. When you ask them how they feel this way – one answer – prayer and trust in God and Mass! Says it all for a huge constituency of people. Thank God for their beautiful witness to true Christian living.



Yes, prayer and trust in God.

The Lord not only will provide, but does provide. Put it to the test and see. But trust is the key.

The joy is in knowing not only that help is on the way, but that it has already arrived, since God’s word is his bond, an assurance that cannot be broken and that will be fulfilled. Nothing is impossible to God.

This waiting in hope for the hope promised will revive a sunken spirit, so that even in the most desperate, the most forlorn of personal circumstances, a person can be marked with a joy and confidence beyond ordinary understanding.


9.40: Magna, thank you for your response to my 9.06 comment. I am one of your fiercest critics and do not like your very nasty, vindictive commentary, mostly unnecessary. However, this response reveals a more considered, reflective and kinder side to you which has far more effect for the good than the vexatious, offensive, personalised responses. I hope you might respond in similar tone in future. You easily resort to negative, judgmental rhetoric which elicits equally vicious comments. Unpleasant and unnecessary. Thanks for this kind comment.


It is an interesting psychological study, and I don’t want to over-analyse its conclusions; that would be churlish, and would miss a very important, overall and constructive point: that regular socialisation within a faith-based group is more beneficial to human well-being than having a positve supernatural belief (a spirituality) alone.

However, I can’t help wondering why this is. Is the more positive effect down to supernatural belief plus association with other believers? Or is it through something more primal and fundamental, something not dependent on such belief? Genesis refers to this where it says: God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. And lo and behold: he added Eve to the mix. But this anthropological statement about human well-being does not, seemingly, require a supernatural belief: generally, people are gregarious, and therefore do better in the company of others.This can suggest that supernatural belief isn’t really essential; just bloody good and supportive company. (Wasn’t it Carl Jung who prescribed love as the antidote to certain forms of psychological illness and disorder? And what is love, practically speaking, but ‘bloody good and supportive’ human company?)

Loneliness is known to have a detrimentsl effect on holistic human health: physically (through immuno- suppression, for example) and psychologically (depression, through social isolation).

The social stigma of living with HIV, more pronounced in some communities than others, can increase the incidence of social isolation and, therefore, of loneliness, and its health detriments.

I should have loved the study to run a parallel investigation of the effects on human health of simply associating regularly with people who had no supernatural belief, but who were nevertheless loving and supportive; this might determine whether it is indeed such belief that can make a positive difference, or whether it is simply the consequence of heeding the gregariousness of our human nature.


Intelligent perceptive comments Magna which touch on some of the underlying characteristics of faith beliefs. Thank you.
As a non believer in any supernatural entity (ie pertaining to a deity or deities), I readily accept the preternatural, in the sense of being beyond the normal, and our present ability to understand. However when I read of praise of the efficacy of faith beliefs, the big question mark for me is “So what, for such praise doesn’t in any way PROVE the underlying objective validity of belief in the supernatural entities.”
A bit similar but less valid “Descartes” type thinking? I believe therefore it must be true.


Pat: I prefer the ‘spirit of proof’ , preferably of the BB variety as favoured by DD.


1.51: MMM: Descartes “Cogito, ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am” (Proper translation) does not discount a religious faith. The point of the research as outlined merely suggests and proves that people of a religious/spiritual disposition and who partake of religious and community faith gatherings are generally happy and contented people. That’s been my experience too in my ministry. I think you are trying to deliberately misrepresent the academic research and thesis of Professor Lyon. I don’t understand why you desire to disprove this authentic research. It doesn’t diminish your atheism or humanism. If people find comfort and happiness through a religious/spiritual belief system, let them so enjoy without attributing the jibe that such people being deluded. I could say the same of your atheism but I respect your opinions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s