Animal Love Helps Women Cope with HIV/AIDS

A spoonful of medicine goes down a lot easier if there is a dog or cat around. Having pets is helpful for women living with HIV/AIDS and managing their chronic illness, according to a new study from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

“We think this finding about pets can apply to women managing other chronic illnesses,” said Allison R. Webel, instructor of nursing and lead author of the article, “The Relationship Between Social Roles and Self-Management Behavior in Women Living with HIV/AIDS,” which appears in the online journal Women’s Health Issues.

The human and animal bond in healing and therapy is being recognized, Webel said, as more animals are visiting nursing homes to connect to people with dementia or hospitals to visit children with long hospital stays.

Another strong role to emerge was advocate. Participants wanted to give back and help stop others from engaging in activities that might make them sick, the researchers report.

While roles as mothers and workers are well documented, “less-defined social roles also have a positive impact on self-management of their chronic illness,” Webel said.