Being diagnosed with HIV as a trigger for spiritual transformation

Franz Lutz, Heidemarie Kremer, Gail Ironson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


How can the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS result in a positive spiritual transformation (ST)? The purpose of this sub-study is to identify special features of the experiences of individuals in whom HIV/AIDS diagnosis triggered a positive ST. We found ST triggered by HIV/AIDS to develop gradually, with a key adaptation phase after diagnosis in which the patient develops an individualized spirituality. Most participants (92%) expressed having an individual connection to a higher presence/entity. Most (92%) also described themselves as feeling more spiritual than religious (p < 0.001). Religious professionals did not play a key role in fostering ST. Despite experiencing stigma by virtue of certain religious views, participants accepted themselves, which supported the process that we called -the triad of care taking{norm of matrix}. This triad started with self-destructive behavior (92%), such as substance use and risky sex, then transformed to developing self-care after diagnosis (adaptation) and gradually expanded in some (62%) to compassionate care for others during ST. Spirituality did not trigger the adaption phase immediately after diagnosis, but contributed to long-lasting lifestyle changes. Overcoming self-reported depression, (92% before diagnosis and in 8% after ST) was a common feature. After the adaption phase, none of the participants blamed themselves, others or God for their HIV+ status. The prevailing view, rather, was that -God made them aware{norm of matrix}. Our results suggest that it may be important to find ways to support people with HIV in feeling connected to a higher presence/entity, since this leads not only to a deeper connection with a higher presence/entity, but also to a deeper connection with oneself and to more responsible and caring behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-409
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 25 2011


  • Depression
  • HIV
  • Spiritual transformation
  • Spirituality
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Being diagnosed with HIV as a trigger for spiritual transformation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this