Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a rapidly evolving multidisciplinary field founded on the premise that psychosocial factors, the central nervous system, and the immune system are intimately linked. Following publication of scientific evidence supporting this link, a number of animal and human studies have been published, both inside and outside the area of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. These studies support the existence of bidirectional feedback mechanisms operating between the brain and the immune system. To date, however, there is no all-encompassing model that predicts individual differences in the relationship among psychosocial factors, immunologic measures, and clinical disease progression in HIV type 1 (HIV-1) infection. This variability in human response has been explained by a number of cofactors (host as well as environmental) that appear to accelerate the course of the disease.
Since psychosocial factors are highly amenable to behavioral interventions, several models for intervention research have been proposed to evaluate whether such interventions can enhance immune functioning, thereby curtailing disease progression. Examination of these interventions in the context of PNI and HIV-1 infection, however, is rather limited. Therefore, researchers and clinicians must not only consider conceptualizations and paradigms in this area of research, but also focus on empirically testable, theory-driven models that allow for the unique characteristics of individual patients.