PsychCentral reported on a study in which researchers found that individuals receiving mental health care were more likely to be HIV-positive than those without mental health problems. From January 2009 to August 2011, the researchers conducted HIV tests on 621 men and 436 women with mental health problems, including depression, psychosis, and substance abuse, receiving treatment at university-based inpatient psychiatry units, intensive case-management programs, and community mental health centers.
Results showed that 4.8 percent of patients (51 individuals) being treated for mental health problems tested positive for HIV. This was approximately four times the base rate in each city and 16 times the rate for the United States. Of the 51 individuals with HIV, 13 said they did not know they were infected. Also, findings indicated that persons with more severe mental health symptoms are at higher risk of HIV infection.
According to the researchers, the results emphasize the importance of HIV screening for mental health patients. The researchers noted that although CDC and the Institute of Medicine recommend routine HIV screening in all clinical settings so that healthcare providers could refer patients early to a treatment program, there has been little progress in adding HIV testing to mental health care programs. The researchers suggested that better integration of HIV testing in mental health programs would be helpful for persons with comorbid conditions, may relieve the burden of chronic disease, may be cost-effective, and may help increase retention to HIV treatment.
The full report, “A Multisite Study of the Prevalence of HIV With Rapid Testing in Mental Health Settings,” was published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health (2014; doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301633).