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A Healthy Mind Can Help Fight HIV
Date:6/20/2008

Depression, stress could speed AIDS progression, reviews of the data suggest

FRIDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Stress and depression may make a great difference in the health of people infected with HIV, according to three new reviews of the data on the subject.

Scientists haven't yet proved that personal attitude and mental health directly affect the progress of HIV infection and AIDS. But the research strongly points to a link, said Dr. Gail Ironson, lead author of the one of the reviews.

"We've got enough studies with people followed over time (to show) that it's not a fluke. You can see how consistent the evidence is," said Ironson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Miami.

Researchers have long tried to understand the link between people's emotional lives and the progression of HIV. Many HIV patients have histories of depression, stress and trauma that could potentially affect their physical health.

The reviews examining these issues were published in the June edition of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

In her review, Ironson and a co-author looked at a number of studies examining the effect of factors such as social support, personality and spirituality.

"Psychological states do predict whether you're going to stay healthy longer or whether your disease is going to progress faster," Ironson concluded.

According to one measure of the strength of the immune system, depressed people become susceptible to disease at twice the rate of other patients, she said.

Jane Leserman, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, found similar results in her review of studies between 1990 and July 2007.

Psychological problems can contribute to worsening health in a variety of ways, such as making it less likely that patients will take their medications as directed, Leserman explained. On the other hand, re
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