New scientific study finds forgiveness a factor in decreasing spread of AIDS

October 13, 2003

World's Top Scientists present findings at Conference on Forgiveness October 24-25

A new study shows that forgiving may be a factor in placing others at risk of contacting AIDS. In a longitudinal study, both feeling forgiven and forgiving others were associated with fewer depressive symptoms, fewer life stressors, a greater degree of religious involvement, and higher global quality of life. Furthermore, expressing forgiveness in the context of one's own HIV infection was associated with a decreased likelihood of placing others at risk through unprotected sex.

For complimentary registration information for journalists or to arrange interviews, please visit our website or contact Vicki Robb at 703-329-3356.

According to researcher Rebecca Wald, this study presents preliminary results from an ongoing study of forgiveness in persons with HIV/AIDS. Because of the intense fear and stigma still associated with HIV/AIDS, many persons with HIV feel alienated from their families, communities, and churches. This sense of alienation is often intensified by feelings of shame or betrayal associated with routes of HIV transmission. These factors combine to place the multidimensional construct of forgiveness in a central role for persons living with HIV/AIDS. In this study, forgiveness was conceptualized as a multidimensional construct including both experiences of forgiving others and experiences of being forgiven, across a range of contexts - interpersonal, spiritual, self/intrapersonal, and medical, and was assessed using an innovative Vignette Similarity Rating Method developed by Temoshok.

Sample: Participants were 131 adult patients in an HIV/AIDS clinic serving an economically disadvantaged inner city area. The sample was 56% male and 90% African-American, and had an average age of 42.5. Patients averaged 8.5 years since diagnosis with HIV, and the most common routes of transmission were intravenous drug use (49%) and heterosexual contact (28%).

Results: At Time 1 of this longitudinal study, both feeling forgiven and forgiving others were associated with fewer depressive symptoms, fewer life stressors, a greater degree of religious involvement, and higher global quality of life. Furthermore, expressing forgiveness in the context of one's own HIV infection was associated with a decreased likelihood of placing others at risk through unprotected sex.

Conclusion: Forgiveness across multiple domains was identified as a highly relevant construct in this sample of persons with HIV/AIDS, being associated with both psychological benefits for the individual, and benefits to the greater society in the form of decreased risk of HIV transmission. The majority of participants readily endorsed forgiveness as an important concept in their own experiences of HIV infection.
Over 40 of the top scientists in the world who study forgiveness are reporting on their research at a conference in Atlanta October 24-25 at the Westin, Peachtree Plaza Hotel. The scientific presentations include the power of forgiving as it affects marriages, health, women, Blacks, religion, businesses, relationships, criminals and victims, substance abusers, and others. The first study to examine brain imaging when making judgments about forgiveness is also presented. See the website press room for a full listing of abstracts at

The conference is hosted by A Campaign for Forgiveness Research, a non-profit organization dedicated to facilitating research for personal health, maintaining relationships, peace among nations and biological connections with primates. The research is funded by grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Fetzer Institute and donations to the Campaign from individuals and family foundations. The Campaign is directed by Everett L. Worthington, Jr. Professor and Chair of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of "Five Steps to Forgiveness" (Crown Publishers).

Vicki Robb, 703-329-3356
Louisa Mattozzi, 703-476-0742

John Templeton Foundation

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