Due to improvements in anti-HIV medications (i.e., HAART) and in prophylaxis for opportunistic infections, HIV infection has been characterized as a chronic illness rather than a uniformly terminal disease. Improved treatments have increased life spans and have heightened interest in how people manage the social and psychological effects of living with HIV or AIDS. These individuals must cope with a number of illness-related stressors, including uncertainty about the progression of their illness and the potential safety and efficacy of anti-HIV medication regimens. Social support is a coping mechanism that can affect how people manage illness and illness-related stress. A large body of research has described these associations, but little has been done to integrate and synthesize that research. In this proposal, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis procedures will be used to accumulate results of research on social support for people living with HIV. Articles, book chapters, and dissertations will be classified and coded for the meta-analysis and meta-synthesis studies.
The specific aims are (a) to examine the relationships between social support and key behavioral, psychological, and physical outcomes (e.g., treatment adherence, depression, or health status); (b) to examine possible mediators (e.g., behavioral or psychological outcomes) of the association between social support and physical outcomes; (d) to identify moderators that differentiate social support effectiveness; (e) to synthesize themes of social support in qualitative studies; and (f) to compare concepts and explanations in quantitative and qualitative studies. Hypotheses include (a) social support will be positively associated with health-promoting behavioral outcomes and with physical and psychological well-being and (b) psychological and behavioral outcomes will mediate the association between social support and physical outcomes. Future research and interventions can be greatly enhanced through the integration and synthesis of existing research.