HIV-Positive Individuals in Rural Areas More Likely to Experience Depression, Suicidal Thoughts
Individuals with HIV living in rural areas of the United States are more likely than their urban counterparts to be depressed and have suicidal thoughts, and many feel that their disease stigmatizes them from the rest of their community, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Timothy Heckman, a psychologist at Ohio University-Athens, and colleagues conducted telephone interviews of 201 HIV-positive individuals who lived in towns with 50,000 or fewer people located at least 20 miles from towns with a population of more than 100,000. Nearly two-thirds of the participants lived in towns with 10,000 or fewer residents. The study findings, which were presented last month at the Annual Conference of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, revealed that 38% of participants reported having suicidal thoughts within the past week. Six percent of respondents said that they "would like to kill themselves or would have killed themselves if they had the chance in the past week." In addition, individuals contemplating suicide "experienced more stress associated with the possibility of transmitting their infection to others" and also experienced stress related to "HIV-related stigma and discrimination," Heckman said. He added that discrimination based on HIV status occurs "at unacceptably high rates" in rural areas, and that many HIV-infected people said they could "enjoy a better quality of life" if that stigma was reduced or eliminated. "It is important for residents of rural communities to realize that, when they stigmatize or discriminate against a rural person living with HIV/AIDS, they may very well be contributing to his or her psychological demise," Heckman said. He added that "emotionally vulnerable" HIV-positive individuals in rural areas should seek either therapy or antidepressant drugs (Mulvihill, Reuters Health, 4/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.