More Than 80% of HIV-Positive Patients Display Symptoms of Depression or Anxiety, Survey Says
More than 80% of HIV-positive individuals have symptoms of depression or anxiety, according to a survey conducted by the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care. The survey, which is scheduled to be presented today during the 40th annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, polled 130 physicians who treat HIV-positive patients and 235 HIV-positive individuals. More than 84% of doctors polled said that their HIV-positive patients "frequently or very frequently" had symptoms of depression, and 81% of doctors said their patients exhibited symptoms of anxiety. According to physicians, more than 71% of their patients experience headaches, lethargy and/or insomnia. Among patients participating in the survey, 72% said they experienced depression, 65% experienced anxiety, 48% had insomnia, 43% had symptoms of lethargy and 40% reported impaired concentration and mood swings. Psychiatric symptoms in HIV-positive individuals have been linked to several factors, including the impact of HIV on the central nervous system and the neurological effects of opportunistic infections. However, nearly 84% of doctors surveyed also believe that antiretroviral drugs are a "leading cause" of the "most common" psychiatric symptoms reported by HIV-positive patients. Nearly 80% of physicians prescribed antidepressant drugs for psychiatric symptoms, and 56% recommended that patients switch from their current antiretroviral therapies to other treatment regimens in instances where "specific antiviral agents may be responsible" for the psychological symptoms. Ewald Horwath, clinical professor of psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, said that doctors treating HIV-positive patients must make efforts to integrate mental health treatment into medical care. Horwath recommended that doctors employ medical and cognitive tests to see if patients have either an opportunistic infection that affects the nervous system or are displaying symptoms of HIV-related dementia. In addition, physicians should review antiretroviral regimens to determine whether patients are taking drugs that have neurological side effects (IAPAC release, 10/25).
In related news, IAPAC will honor three HIV/AIDS researchers and Treatment Action Campaign Chair Zackie Achmat with awards for their work in the field of HIV/AIDS. The awards will be given tomorrow during IAPAC's Honoring Our Heroes reception, which honors the "lifetime accomplishments" of HIV/AIDS researchers and the "commendable work of public policy advocates, activists and world political leaders engaged in the struggle against the pandemic." Achmat will receive the Jonathan Mann Health Human Rights Award "for his courageous and selfless activism in advocating for equal access" to antiretroviral drugs, according to an IAPAC press release. IAPAC Hero in Medicine awards will be granted to Drs. John Bartlett of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, George Janossy of London's Royal Free and University College Medical School and F. James Muller, chief specialist and metropolitan head of the department of medicine for the city of Pietermaritzberg in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (IAPAC release, 10/11).