Participants Sought for Study on Meditation and HIV

July 29, 2008
Contact: News Office (415) 502-6397

The UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine is looking for participants for a study to determine whether mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) slows the progression of HIV. Prior research demonstrated that MBSR improves mood and reduces stress. Other studies have shown that stress and depression are associated with more rapid HIV progression.

For the past three years, the Osher center's Staying Well Study has examined if mindfulness meditation helps to reduce stress and depression in people who are HIV-positive and not on antiretroviral medications, and thus slow HIV progression and postpone the need for medications.

The efficacy of antiretroviral medications for HIV has been well studied, but less is known about what people who don't yet need medications can do to maintain their health and slow HIV progression.

If found to be effective for HIV, the practice of MBSR would have implications not only for patients in the United States, but also those in the developing world, since antiretroviral medications are very expensive and not available to most people in the world.

The MBSR study, one of the most scientifically rigorous to date, is measuring many psychological and physiological factors, including depression, quality of life, stress hormones, CD4 count, viral load and other biochemical markers specifically related to HIV infection.

Staying Well Study

Participants in the Staying Well Study are randomly assigned to either MBSR (the standard eight-week format with one day of silent retreat) or an HIV education group (an informative and educational class that serves as a scientific control).

Those in the education group have the option of taking MBSR after their one-year study participation is complete. All classes and visits are held in San Francisco. Participants also visit a clinic several times a year for blood draws and to complete questionnaires.

The Staying Well Study has 159 participants to date and is currently enrolling participants for the final classes, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 27. Participants must be HIV-positive and not on medications, with CD4 T-cell counts above 250 and viral load above 100. Participation in the study is free, and participants receive a small amount of compensation for completing assessment visits.

For more information, please contact Patty Moran at (415) 353-9745 or call the Staying Well Study at (415) 353-9744 or visit

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study is led by Susan Folkman, director of the Osher Center and Osher Foundation Distinguished Professor in Integrative Medicine, and Dr. Frederick (Rick) Hecht, associate professor of medicine and Osher Foundation Endowed Chair in Research in Integrative Medicine. Dr. Kevin Barrows, director of the MBSR program at the Osher center, is the meditation director for the study.