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Keywords:

  • spirituality;
  • sexuality;
  • African-Americans;
  • human immunodeficiency virus;
  • acquired immunodeficiency syndrome;
  • human immunodeficiency virus symptoms;
  • mental well-being;
  • functional health status;
  • psychosocial

Background. Research has shown that spirituality has a positive effect on physical and mental health; however, few studies have explored the influence of spirituality and sexuality on mental well-being and functional health status in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Aim. This descriptive cross-sectional study was designed to examine the relationships among spirituality, sexual orientation, mental well-being and aspects of functional health status (physical, role, social and cognitive functioning) in a sample of 117 African-American men and women living with HIV/AIDS.

Methods. Spirituality was measured using the Spiritual Well-Being Scale. A demographic questionnaire gathered data on sexual orientation, age and gender. The Medical Outcomes Study Questionnaire-30 assessed aspects of functional health status and mental well-being. The HIV Symptom Checklist for Persons With HIV disease was used to collect data on HIV symptoms. The data were collected in 1996.

Findings. The findings indicate that spirituality had a direct relationship with cognitive and social functioning and was inversely related to HIV symptoms. Sexual orientation had direct relationships with mental well-being, cognitive, physical, social and role functioning. t-Tests showed that heterosexual participants reported poorer mental well-being and functional health status compared with homosexual participants. Regression analysis showed that spirituality, sexual orientation, age and HIV symptoms contributed significantly to mental well-being and functional health status.

Conclusions. The regression analysis showed that spirituality, sexual orientation, age and HIV symptoms contributed significantly to mental well-being and functional health status. Further research is needed to explore the various ways that sexual orientation influences health status findings in those with HIV disease in certain segments of the population. The findings support the inclusion of spirituality as a variable when examining mental well-being and physical health. Finally, given the limitations of the design, more rigorous methods should be employed to understand further the contribution of spirituality to the health status of African-Americans living with HIV, because of its social importance to this particular community.