Are religion and spirituality barriers or facilitators to treatment for HIV: a systematic review of the literature.AIDS Care 2017; 29(1):1-13AC
Much attention has been given to the relationship between religion/spirituality (R/S) and HIV in recent years, but comparatively little has been explored in regard to R/S and HIV testing, retention in care, and adherence to medication. Religious views concerning HIV risk behavior pose challenges to communication and education about sexual health in religious communities and may serve as barriers to HIV treatment and care. Conversely, religious coping and spiritual well-being, as well as social support could serve as facilitators to HIV treatment and care. This study aims to fill a gap in the literature by addressing the following questions: (1) what dimensions of R/S have been found to be factors associated with HIV outcomes?; (2) which R/S factors function as barriers or facilitators to care among people living with HIV (PLWH)?; and (3) which R/S factors, if any, vary across socio-demographic groups? Thirty-three empirical articles were identified for systematic review. Of the 33 empirical studies included, 24 studies found that at least one measure of R/S was associated with better adherence and clinical health outcomes. Twelve studies found at least one measure of R/S to be associated with poorer adherence and clinical health outcomes. Seven of the studies found at least one R/S measure to have no significant association with outcomes. Though all of the studies included in this review focused on R/S experiences of PLWH, there was very little consistency in regard to measurement of R/S. Studies in this review included a wide range of R/S measures, including beliefs, religious/spiritual practices, R/S coping, organizational religion, and many more. Of the 33 studies reviewed, only 9 focused on unique populations such as women, people with histories of substance abuse, immigrants, etc. Findings from this review highlight opportunities for more studies in various populations using standardized R/S measures.