Cognitively Based Compassion Training for HIV Immune Nonresponders - An Attention-Placebo Randomized Controlled Trial

Boghuma K. Titanji, Mehul Tejani, Eugene W. Farber, C. Christina Mehta, Thaddeus W. Pace, Kathryn Meagley, Christina Gavegnano, Timothy Harrison, Caroline W. Kokubun, Satya Dev Negi, Raymond F. Schinazi, Vincent C. Marconi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Chronic inflammation is associated with increased morbidity and mortality for people with HIV (PWH). Psychological stress is an important contributor to this chronic inflammation. We hypothesized that a cognitively based compassion training (CBCT) approach could reduce inflammation and psychological stress in immune nonresponder PWH. Design: An attention-placebo randomized controlled trial design to evaluate the acceptability of CBCT among PWH and its effects on key aspects of stress and immune function compared with an active-attention control group (NCT02395289). Methods: This study was conducted at an HIV clinic in Atlanta, Georgia. Eligible individuals determined by (1) adherence to antiretroviral therapy for at least a year, (2) virologic suppression; and (3) stable CD4+T-cell counts <350 cells/L were randomized in a 2:1 ratio to either CBCT or control in 2 study periods: April-May, 2016, and September-December, 2016. Psychological measures and inflammatory biomarkers associated with HIV disease progression (IL-1β, TNF-α, sCD14, IL-6, and IL-10) were obtained for all study participants at baseline and at the time of study completion. Results: We found a significant association between CBCT practice time engagement and fold reduction in IL-6 and TNF-α levels. There was no association between CBCT practice time and other biomarkers markers assessed (IL-1β, sCD14, and IL-10). These changes were coincident with significant increases in self-reported psychological well-being and HIV disease acceptance and in benefits for CBCT participants. We also observed fewer instances of virologic failure for those in the CBCT arm compared with controls. Conclusions: CBCT is a novel and feasible nonmedication-based intervention that could reduce inflammation and psychological stress in PWH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-348
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022


  • CBCT
  • HIV
  • immune nonresponders
  • inflammation
  • mindfulness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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