Pets Help HIV Patients Cope Better

By Mamta Singh

Women who are living with HIV or AIDS could find coping becomes easier by adopting a furry pet, if possible. Studies from Case Western Reserve University show that women suffering from chronic illness manage themselves better when they are engaged in social roles. (1)

Pets help these women stay on track with their treatment. Taking care of the pet automatically helps them take care of themselves. Women organize their day in a way that includes taking care of their pet. In doing things like taking their pets for their walks, arranging (buying, serving, cleaning) for their meals. They in turn get the physical activity they should get to keep fit and support their own treatment. It helps them be more aware and in-tune with their own medication, dosage and timings, and keeping the doctor's appointments.

A pet provides them much-needed psychological and emotional support. This is especially important when women with HIV or other chronic illnesses are living alone. Nursing instructor and lead author of the study, Allison Webel, from the Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School, put forth her findings in Women's Health Issues journal entitled, "The Relationship Between Social Roles and Self-Management Behavior in Women Living with HIV/AIDS".

According to Webel, "Much information is available about the impact of work and family roles, but little is known about other social roles that women assume. Being a pet owner was an important surprise. Pets -- primarily dogs -- gave these women a sense of support and pleasure." (2)

In her research, Webel conducted a study on 12 focus groups with 48 women in total to assess how they were able to keep healthy. Their average age was 42 years old. Most of them had children and almost half of them were living by themselves. While the study was still in progress, six major social roles emerged which either helped or obstructed these women from managing their health condition. The social roles were those of pet owners, mother, faith follower, health advocate, stigmatised patient and employee.

In all groups except that of the stigmatized patient their social roles aided the women and had a positive role and impact in their disease's management. However, the stigmatized patient was too hesitant to share information or seek support as they kept the condition to themselves and suffered alone for the fear of social stigma or rejection from peers.

Though being a pet owner was only one social aspect of the women who were studied, there were other social contexts in which some of the women were engaged and it worked equally well for them. Women with HIV who were health advocates gave back to society by educating other women from being involved in activities that could risk their health.

Similarly roles of mothers and workers were also found to be having a positive impact. Even lesser defined social roles had a desirable effect on self-management of chronic illnesses.


1. Love of a Dog or Cat Helps Women Cope With HIV/AIDS; Science Daily News; February 2012;

2. CWRU study finds the love of a dog or cat helps women cope with HIV/AIDS;CWRU- Think magazine; February 2012;


1. Furry Friends with Benefits: Staying Healthy with Pets;; February 2012;

Technical report of the study may be accessed at:

2. The Relationship Between Social Roles and Self-Management Behaviour In Women Living With HIV; Women's Health Issues Journal; February 2012;

Information in this article is not medical advice. All information given is to be checked with your doctor before implementing or taking them as standard or verified.

Mamta Singh is a published author of the books:

Migraines for the Informed Woman - Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1 (Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL:,

Mentor Your Mind - Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2 (Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL:

and the upcoming Women's Complete Fitness Guide (Publisher: Hay House India).

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health.

Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation.

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Reviewed March 13, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith