This 10-year study (N=177) examines how people with HIV use spirituality to cope with life's trauma on top of HIV-related stress (e.g., facing death, stigma, poverty, limited healthcare) usual events. Spirituality, defined as a connection to a higher presence, is independent from religion (institutionalized spirituality). As a dynamic adaptive process, coping requires longitudinal studying. Qualitative content-analysis of interviews/essays yielded a coding of specific aspects and a longitudinal rating of overall spiritual coping. Most participants were rated as spiritual, using spiritual practices, about half experienced comfort, empowerment, growth/transformation, gratitude, less than one-third meaning, community, and positive reframing. Up to one-fifth perceived spiritual conflict, struggle, or anger, triggering post-traumatic stress, which sometimes converted into positive growth/transformation later. Over time, 65% used spiritual coping positively, 7% negatively, and 28% had no significant use. Spirituality was mainly beneficial for women, heterosexuals, and African Americans (p<0.05). Results suggest that spirituality is a major source of positive and occasionally negative coping (e.g., viewing HIV as sin). We discuss how clinicians can recognize and prevent when spirituality is creating distress and barriers to HIV treatment, adding a literature review on ways of effective spiritual assessment. Spirituality may be a beneficial component of coping with trauma, considering socio-cultural contexts.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases