Dr. Magdalena Szaflarski, assistant professor in the department of sociology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recently investigated how spirituality and religion are important to many people living with HIV (PLWH), focusing on special populations (ethnic-minorities, women, and youth), spirituality/religion measurement, mediating/moderating mechanisms, and individual and community-level interventions.
Spirituality/religion in PLWH has been refined as a multidimensional phenomenon, which improves health and quality of life directly as well as through such mediating factors as healthy behaviors, optimism, and social support. It is known that spirituality/religion helps people to cope with stressors, especially stigma and discrimination.
Spiritual interventions utilizing the power of prayer and meditation and addressing spiritual struggle are under way. Faith-based community interventions have focused on stigma and could improve individual outcomes through access to spiritual/social support and care/treatment for PLWH.
Dr. Szaflarski concluded that community engagement is necessary to design and implement effective and sustainable programs. In addition, the study found that future efforts should focus on vulnerable populations; utilize state-of-the-art methods (randomized clinical trials, community-based participatory research); and address population-specific interventions at individual and community levels. She noted that clinical and policy implications across geographic settings also need attention.
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[Photo: Dr. Magdalena Szaflarski]