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      Depression and anxiety as barriers to art initiation, retention in care, and treatment outcomes in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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          Since mental health may influence HIV care among people living with HIV (PLHIV), we sought to evaluate the impact of anxiety and depression on ART initiation and HIV-related outcomes.


          We conducted a prospective cohort study of PLHIV in the Umlazi Township of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We measured depression using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and anxiety using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) scale, both of which have been validated in sub-Saharan Africa, among all patients prior to receiving a positive HIV test. We then followed those who tested HIV+ for 12 months to determine their time to ART initiation, missing clinic visits or refills, retention in care, hospitalization, and death. We used logistic regression models, adjusted for socio-demographic characteristics such as age and sex, to examine the effects of baseline measures of depression and anxiety on ART initiation and HIV treatment outcomes.


          Among 2,319 adult PLHIV, mean age was 33 years (SD=9.3 years), 57% were female, and baseline median CD4 count was 317 cells/mm 3 (IQR=175–491 cells/mm 3). In univariate analyses, depression was associated with slower rates of ART initiation. In adjusted models, PLHIV with depression had lower odds of initiating ART within 90 days of HIV testing (aOR=0.60, 95% CI=0.46, 0.79, p<0.01), and lower odds of being retained in care (aOR=0.77, 95% CI=0.60, 0.99, p = 0.04). By the end of the 12-month study period, odds of ART initiation among PLHIV with depression were higher than the first 90 days but still significantly lower compared to those without depression (aOR=0.72, 95% CI=0.52, 0.99, p = 0.04). Among PLHIV who initiated ART, depression was associated with a lower odds of missing clinic visits (aOR=0.54, 95% CI= 0.40, 0.73, p<0.01). Anxiety was strongly correlated with depression ( r = 0.77, p<0.01) and had similar effects on HIV-related outcomes.


          The presence of depression is a significant barrier to ART initiation and retention in care among adult PLHIV in South Africa. Mental health screenings around the time of HIV testing may help improve linkage and HIV-related outcomes.


          This work was supported by the Infectious Disease Society of America Education & Research Foundation and National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (PKD); Massachusetts General Hospital Executive Committee on Research (PKD); the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research [AI060354] (PKD); and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [AI108293, AI143351] (PKD). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or other funding agencies.

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          Most cited references 28

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          A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: the GAD-7.

          Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental disorders; however, there is no brief clinical measure for assessing GAD. The objective of this study was to develop a brief self-report scale to identify probable cases of GAD and evaluate its reliability and validity. A criterion-standard study was performed in 15 primary care clinics in the United States from November 2004 through June 2005. Of a total of 2740 adult patients completing a study questionnaire, 965 patients had a telephone interview with a mental health professional within 1 week. For criterion and construct validity, GAD self-report scale diagnoses were compared with independent diagnoses made by mental health professionals; functional status measures; disability days; and health care use. A 7-item anxiety scale (GAD-7) had good reliability, as well as criterion, construct, factorial, and procedural validity. A cut point was identified that optimized sensitivity (89%) and specificity (82%). Increasing scores on the scale were strongly associated with multiple domains of functional impairment (all 6 Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form General Health Survey scales and disability days). Although GAD and depression symptoms frequently co-occurred, factor analysis confirmed them as distinct dimensions. Moreover, GAD and depression symptoms had differing but independent effects on functional impairment and disability. There was good agreement between self-report and interviewer-administered versions of the scale. The GAD-7 is a valid and efficient tool for screening for GAD and assessing its severity in clinical practice and research.
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            The PHQ-9: validity of a brief depression severity measure.

            While considerable attention has focused on improving the detection of depression, assessment of severity is also important in guiding treatment decisions. Therefore, we examined the validity of a brief, new measure of depression severity. The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) is a self-administered version of the PRIME-MD diagnostic instrument for common mental disorders. The PHQ-9 is the depression module, which scores each of the 9 DSM-IV criteria as "0" (not at all) to "3" (nearly every day). The PHQ-9 was completed by 6,000 patients in 8 primary care clinics and 7 obstetrics-gynecology clinics. Construct validity was assessed using the 20-item Short-Form General Health Survey, self-reported sick days and clinic visits, and symptom-related difficulty. Criterion validity was assessed against an independent structured mental health professional (MHP) interview in a sample of 580 patients. As PHQ-9 depression severity increased, there was a substantial decrease in functional status on all 6 SF-20 subscales. Also, symptom-related difficulty, sick days, and health care utilization increased. Using the MHP reinterview as the criterion standard, a PHQ-9 score > or =10 had a sensitivity of 88% and a specificity of 88% for major depression. PHQ-9 scores of 5, 10, 15, and 20 represented mild, moderate, moderately severe, and severe depression, respectively. Results were similar in the primary care and obstetrics-gynecology samples. In addition to making criteria-based diagnoses of depressive disorders, the PHQ-9 is also a reliable and valid measure of depression severity. These characteristics plus its brevity make the PHQ-9 a useful clinical and research tool.
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              The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies.

              Much of biomedical research is observational. The reporting of such research is often inadequate, which hampers the assessment of its strengths and weaknesses and of a study's generalizability. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Initiative developed recommendations on what should be included in an accurate and complete report of an observational study. We defined the scope of the recommendations to cover three main study designs: cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies. We convened a 2-day workshop in September 2004, with methodologists, researchers, and journal editors to draft a checklist of items. This list was subsequently revised during several meetings of the coordinating group and in e-mail discussions with the larger group of STROBE contributors, taking into account empirical evidence and methodological considerations. The workshop and the subsequent iterative process of consultation and revision resulted in a checklist of 22 items (the STROBE Statement) that relate to the title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections of articles. Eighteen items are common to all three study designs and four are specific for cohort, case-control, or cross-sectional studies. A detailed Explanation and Elaboration document is published separately and is freely available on the web sites of PLoS Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Epidemiology. We hope that the STROBE Statement will contribute to improving the quality of reporting of observational studies.

                Author and article information

                07 January 2021
                January 2021
                07 January 2021
                : 31
                [a ]Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, 1959 Pacific St, Seattle, WA 98195, United States
                [b ]AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Durban, South Africa
                [c ]Department of Global Health, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, United States
                [d ]AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Durban, South Africa
                [e ]Department of Infectious Diseases, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
                [f ]Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, United States
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. mvtruong@ 123456uw.edu
                S2589-5370(20)30365-5 100621
                © 2020 The Author(s)

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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