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Being Diagnosed with HIV as a Trigger for Spiritual Transformation

University of Applied Sciences, Frankfurt, Germany
Department of Psychology, University of Miami, 1204 Dickinson Drive, 37 E Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2011, 2(3), 398-409;
Received: 12 July 2011 / Revised: 4 August 2011 / Accepted: 19 August 2011 / Published: 25 August 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Spirituality and Health)
PDF [196 KB, uploaded 25 August 2011]


How can the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS result in a positive spiritual transformation (ST)? The purpose of this sub-study is to identify special features of the experiences of individuals in whom HIV/AIDS diagnosis triggered a positive ST. We found ST triggered by HIV/AIDS to develop gradually, with a key adaptation phase after diagnosis in which the patient develops an individualized spirituality. Most participants (92%) expressed having an individual connection to a higher presence/entity. Most (92%) also described themselves as feeling more spiritual than religious (p < 0.001). Religious professionals did not play a key role in fostering ST. Despite experiencing stigma by virtue of certain religious views, participants accepted themselves, which supported the process that we called “the triad of care taking”. This triad started with self-destructive behavior (92%), such as substance use and risky sex, then transformed to developing self-care after diagnosis (adaptation) and gradually expanded in some (62%) to compassionate care for others during ST. Spirituality did not trigger the adaption phase immediately after diagnosis, but contributed to long-lasting lifestyle changes. Overcoming self-reported depression, (92% before diagnosis and in 8% after ST) was a common feature. After the adaption phase, none of the participants blamed themselves, others or God for their HIV+ status. The prevailing view, rather, was that “God made them aware”. Our results suggest that it may be important to find ways to support people with HIV in feeling connected to a higher presence/entity, since this leads not only to a deeper connection with a higher presence/entity, but also to a deeper connection with oneself and to more responsible and caring behavior. View Full-Text
Keywords: spirituality; spiritual transformation; HIV; depression; substance use spirituality; spiritual transformation; HIV; depression; substance use
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Lutz, F.; Kremer, H.; Ironson, G. Being Diagnosed with HIV as a Trigger for Spiritual Transformation. Religions 2011, 2, 398-409.

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