Mental Health Co-Morbidity in People Living with HIV in South Africa – Steps towards a Synthesis of Interventions and Policy Advancement

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Authors : Monika Dos Santos



Mental health disorders are prevalent in HIV-infected populations, ranging from 43-56%, compared to about 30% of the general population. This comorbidity may exacerbate the progression to HIV/AIDS by increasing viral load, reducing CD4 count, and reducing adherence to ARVs. Despite the well established relationship between mental health and HIV/AIDS, and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation that attention to the psychosocial needs (which includes the prevention and treatment of mental health problems) of people with AIDS should be an integral part of HIV care, mental healthcare is yet to be integrated into primary care HIV treatment programmes in South Africa and other poor resource countries.


The Rorschach inkblot test was conducted on a convenience sample of four South African HIV positive participants. Furthermore, a situational analysis was conducted from 2011-2013 to determine the context of mental health/HIV services in the Tshwane-Metsweding area, South Africa.


Outcomes suggest that there is a high rate of psychological comorditity in HIV infected individuals (such as mood disorders, personality disorders etc.), that there is a need to further develop and pilot test appropriate materials and models of delivery of mental healthcare within the parameters of affordability, acceptability and availability, and to advocate for the advancement of mental health and HIV policy integration.


HIV, AIDS, mental health, South Africa, Rorschach inkblot test, systems strengthening, policy advancement


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