positive2A HIV support charity has called for more to be done to support people living with HIV who have mental health issues, after research revealed that 75% of those with the condition have experienced mental ill health.

HIV support agency Positively UK, in partnership with pharmaceutical firm Janssen, surveyed almost 200 people living with HIV and found that 68% admitted to experiencing depression in the past year. Of those who have experienced depression, a third considered that it had had a “huge impact” on their quality of life.

Of those who had experienced mental ill health, 24% said they have missed treatment doses as a result, potentially impacting on their overall health.

But despite the apparent prevalence of mental ill health among people living with HIV, only 40% made use of counselling or psychology services and 51.4% had discussed these issues with their support worker.

More mental health support required
Based on the survey findings, Positively UK’s States of Mind report calls for more to be done to support the mental health of people living with HIV and makes a number of recommendations:• Improvements must be made across all HIV services to tackle the on-going challenge of mental health issues in the HIV community
• Increased dialogue between people living with HIV and healthcare professionals is needed to better understand the complex relationship between mental health and adherence to treatment
• Closer coordination is needed between multidisciplinary support functions to help ensure a more effective allocation of service provision.

“Despite the support available, mental health problems, and depression in particular, are hugely important issues for people living with HIV,” said Allan Anderson, chief executive of Positively UK. “The findings of the States of Mind report highlight that more needs to be done to support people and ensure they are offered holistic care. I urge people with HIV, healthcare professionals and support workers to read the report and work together to improve mental wellbeing in the HIV community.”

Professor Jane Anderson, director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV, and consultant physician at Homerton University Hospital in London, added: “This report emphasises the importance of ensuring the clinical community are fully aware of the impact that HIV can have on mental and emotional wellbeing. The multidisciplinary clinical team in HIV medicine is uniquely placed to address the totality of the health and wellbeing needs of people who use our clinics. We must seek ways to care for people effectively in terms of the physical and mental aspects of HIV.”