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.