Massage and recreation therapy for reducing stress for people living with HIV


Key take-home messages
  • There are few studies on the effects of massage on stress, quality of life or immune measures for people living with HIV/AIDS as two systematic reviews (one completed and one in-progress) and other review papers have identified only four studies each with small sample sizes.
  • Most people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) who try massage find it helps relieve stress and decrease anxiety; some people even experience increases in immune cell presence and improved peripheral neuropathy.
  • Massage therapy can enhance the lives of PHAs in both the physical and psychological realms by providing a personal touch other therapies do not generally provide.
  • One study assessed the effects of massage in PHAs with stress levels comparable to people who had just been told they were positive and found that massage considerable decreased stress levels to the level of those who are HIV negative.
  • Scafidi et al (1996) studied HIV-positive babies and the mother of each child served as the massage therapist. The massaged babies presented with lower stress behaviors and the mothers showed lower stress levels.


The Ontario HIV Treatment Network: Rapid Response Service




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population


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