Pet ownership among HIV-infected persons in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: Health risk or psychological benefit?

Angulo, Frederick James.  University of California, Los Angeles. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1995. 9601386.

Abstract (summary)

Although many persons infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) own pets and several infections may be acquired from pets, few HIV-infected persons are informed of the health risks of owning a pet. When pets are thought to pose a health risk, overly cautious recommendations are often made, such as giving up pets altogether, without consideration of the possible psychological benefits. The purpose of this research was to investigate the potential health risks and psychological benefits of owning a pet by HIV-infected persons. This research was conducted among participants of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) in Baltimore, Chicago, and Los Angeles between April 1, 1991, and September 30, 1993.

Few health risks of owning a pet were identified. Most notable, cat ownership was associated with Bartonella henselae IgM antibodies, and with neuropsychological decline and dementia. Bartonella henselae IgM antibodies were also strongly associated with neuropsychological decline or dementia. This suggests that some cases of HIV-associated dementia may be associated with owning a cat, and are associated with potentially treatable Bartonella henselae infections.

In an effort to more precisely measure the potential psychological benefits of owning a pet, the Companion Animal Bonding Scale (CABS) was used to measure pet attachment. The CABS showed adequate internal consistency and intraobserver reliability. Persons with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) who owned pets reported less depression than persons with AIDS who did not own pets. This beneficial effect of pet ownership occurred principally among persons who reported relatively few confidants. In addition, the moderating effect of pet ownership on depression was most apparent among dog owners and owners who expressed a high level of attachments to their pets. These results suggest that pets may buffer the stressful impact of AIDS by enhancing companionship for some HIV-infected persons.

In conclusion, HIV-infected pet owners should be informed about the possible health risks and psychological benefits of owning a pet, however, the routine advice to HIV-infected persons to get rid of their pets is not warranted.

Indexing (details)

Public health;
Social psychology;
Mental health
0573: Public health
0451: Social psychology
0982: Immunology
0347: Mental health
Identifier / keyword
Health and environmental sciences; Psychology; AIDS; immune deficiency
Pet ownership among HIV-infected persons in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: Health risk or psychological benefit?
Angulo, Frederick James
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 56/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Detels, Roger
University of California, Los Angeles
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL