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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 5, Issue 3, Pages 345-354
Original Article

Dominican Children with HIV Not Receiving Antiretrovirals: Massage Therapy Influences their Behavior and Development

1Touch Research Institutes, Department of Pediatrics, University of Miami, School of Medicine, USA
2Division of Disease Prevention, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami, School of Medicine, USA
3CENISMI/Robert Reid Cabral Children Hospital, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
4Miami-Dade County Health Department/Florida Department of Health, USA
5University of Alabama, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, PO Box 870160, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0160, USA

Received 6 May 2006; Accepted 1 March 2007

Copyright © 2008 Maria Hernandez-Reif et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Forty-eight children (M age = 4.8 years) infected with HIV/AIDS and living in the Dominican Republic were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or a play session control group. The children in the massage therapy group received two weekly 20-min massages for 12 weeks; the children in the control group participated in a play session (coloring, playing with blocks) for the same duration and length as the massage therapy group. Overall, the children in the massage therapy group improved in self-help abilities and communication, suggesting that massage therapy may enhance daily functioning for children with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the HIV infected children who were six or older also showed a decrease in internalizing behaviors; specifically depressive/anxious behaviors and negative thoughts were reduced. Additionally, baseline assessments revealed IQ equivalence below normal functioning for 70% of the HIV infected children and very high incidences of mood problems (depression, withdrawn) for 40% of the children and anxiety problems for 20% of the children, suggesting the need for better monitoring and alternative interventions in countries with limited resources to improve cognition and the mental health status of children infected with HIV/AIDS.