Posted from archive: 11.04.2013 | by AMRA


While human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has become a manageable chronic illness, long-term patients, especially those who contracted the virus before the advent of the newer treatments, still experience shortened life spans and remain subject to a variety of complications, iatrogenic side-effects, and an overall poorer quality of life.

Gonzalez-Garcia et al. [AIDS and Behavior] studied the psychological and immunological effects of the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program on long-term HIV+ patients to discover whether MBCT could lessen their burden of illness. All participants became HIV+ prior to 1996 and had received combined antiretroviral treatment for at least five years. The researchers randomly assigned forty patients to either MBCT or a treatment-as-usual control, assessing participants at baseline, 8 weeks, and 20 weeks.

After intervention, MBCT participants had a higher quality of life, reduced perceived stress, fewer depressive and anxiety symptoms, and higher CD4 immune cell counts. All of these effects were both large and significant, with improvements being either maintained or amplified at follow-up. For example, MBCT participants had mean Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) scores of 25.1 at baseline, 10.1 at 8 weeks, and 7.1 at 20 weeks, while control scores remained virtually unchanged (21.3 at baseline and 19.0 at 20 weeks).

Similarly, MBCT CD4 cell counts rose from 555 cells/mL at baseline to 614 at 8 weeks and 681 at 20 weeks, while control counts gradually declined. MBCT participants showed large quality of life improvements in energy, emotional reactions, social isolation, and physical mobility, and a moderate improvement in sleep, while there were no comparable improvements in the control group. The very low (5%) MBCT drop out rate suggests MBCT is tolerated well by people living with HIV.


Gonzalez-Garcia, M., Ferrer, M. J., Borras, X., Muñoz-Moreno, J. A., Miranda, C., Puig, J., . . . Clotet, B. (2013). Effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on the quality of life, emotional status, and CD4 cell count of patients aging with HIV infection. AIDS and Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10461-013-0612-z [PMID: 24077971]

[Link to abstract]