Stress buffering effects of oxytocin on HIV status in low-income ethnic minority women

Erin M. Fekete, Michael H. Antoni, Corina Lopez, Armando J. Mendez, Angela Szeto, Mary Ann Fletcher, Nancy Klimas, Mahendra Kumar, Neil Schneiderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Elevated perceptions of psychosocial stress and stressful life events are linked to faster disease progression in individuals living with HIV and these associations may be stronger for women from ethnic minority populations. Levels of neurohormones such as oxytocin (OT), cortisol, and norepinephrine (NE) have been shown to influence the effects of psychosocial stress in different populations. Understanding how intrinsic neuroendocrine substances moderate the effects of stressors in minority women living with HIV (WLWH) may pave the way for interventions to improve disease management. Methods: We examined circulating levels of plasma OT as a moderator of the effects of stress on disease status (viral load, CD4+ cell count) in 71 low-income ethnic minority WLWH. Results: At low levels of OT, there was an inverse association between stress and CD4+ cell counts. Counter-intuitively, at high levels of OT there was a positive association between stress and CD4+ cell counts. This pattern was unrelated to women's viral load. Other neuroendocrine hormones known to down-regulate the immune system (cortisol, norepinephrine) did not mediate the effects of OT and stress on immune status. Conclusions: OT may have stress buffering effects on some immune parameters and possibly health status in low income ethnic minority WLWH reporting elevated stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)881-890
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • HIV disease status
  • Low-income ethnic minority women
  • Neuroendocrine hormones
  • Oxytocin
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems


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