Compassionate love as a predictor of reduced HIV disease progression and transmission risk

Heidemarie Kremer, Gail Ironson, Lauren Kaplan, Rick Stuetzle, Mary Ann Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives. This study examined if compassionate love (CL) predicts HIV disease progression and transmission risk. Scientific study of CL emerged with Underwood's working model of other-centered CL, defining five criteria: free choice, cognitive understanding, valuing/empowering, openness/receptivity for spirituality, and response of the heart. Method. This 10-year cohort study collected 6-monthly interviews/essays on coping with HIV and trauma of 177 people with HIV in South Florida. Secondary qualitative content analysis on other-centered CL inductively added the component of CL towards self. Deductively, we coded the presence of the five criteria of CL and rated the benefit of CL for the recipient on a 6-point Likert scale. Growth-curve modeling (reduced to 4 years due to cohort effects) investigated if CL predicts CD4 slope (HIV disease progression) and cumulative viral load detection (transmission risk). Results. Valuing/empowering and cognitive understanding were the essential criteria for CL to confer long-term benefits. CL had a higher benefit for recipients if given out of free choice. High scores of CL towards self were reciprocal with receiving (93%) and giving (77%) other-centered CL. Conversely, those rated low on CL towards self were least likely to score high on receiving (38%) and giving (49%) other-centered CL. Growth-curve modeling showed that CL towards self predicted 4-year cumulative undetectable viral load (independent from sociocultural differences, substance use disorder, baseline CD4 and viral load). Those high versus low on CL self were 2.25 times more likely to have undetectable viral load at baseline and 1.49 times more likely to maintain undetectable viral load over time. CL towards self predicted CD4 preservation after controlling for differences in CL giving. Conclusions. CL towards self is potentially the seed of being expressive and receptive of CL. Health care professionals prepared to walk the extra mile for those who neglect and isolate themselves may break a vicious circle since those lacking CL self were least likely to receive CL from others. Future studies should examine whether any enhancement of CL towards self may translate into slower disease progression and reduction of transmission risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number819021
JournalEvidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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