The effect of relaxation interventions on cortisol levels in HIV-seropositive women

Deborah Jones, Mary Owens, Mahendra Kumar, Ryan Cook, Stephen M. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, assessed in terms of cortisol levels, may enhance the ability of HIV to infect lymphocytes and downregulate the immune system, accelerating disease progression. This study sought to determine the effects of relaxation techniques on cortisol levels in HIV-seropositive women. Methods: Women (n = 150) were randomized to a group cognitive-behavioral stress management (CBSM) condition or an individual information condition and underwent 3 types of relaxation training (progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, and autogenic training). Cortisol levels were obtained pre- and postrelaxation. Results: Guided imagery was effective in reducing cortisol in the group condition (t = 3.90, P > .001), and muscle relaxation reduced cortisol in the individual condition (t = 3.11, P = .012). Among participants in the group condition attending all sessions, the magnitude of pre- to postsession reduction became greater over time. Conclusions: Results suggest that specific relaxation techniques may be partially responsible for cortisol decreases associated with relaxation and CBSM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-323
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortisol
  • HIV
  • Relaxation
  • Stress
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Dermatology
  • Infectious Diseases


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