Looking at the link between mental health and HIV

Looking at the link between mental health and HIV

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The prevalence of mental-health issues in people living with HIV often goes unnoticed or untreated and the impact is resulting in a lower quality of life for those affected, said a Penn Medicine behavioral-health expert.

Dr. Donna Coviello, organizer of the Penn Mental Health HIV/AIDS Research Center Community Advisory Board, cited a need to educate frontline workers in behavioral health about how mental health affects every stage of HIV diagnosis and treatment.

“Oftentimes, HIV and mental health go hand-in-hand. Like many chronic illnesses, HIV can lead to depression, anxiety and other severe psychotic disorders. People may get treated for their HIV, but their mental-health disorders are not diagnosed or not treated due to stigma or lack of integration of services,” Coviello said.

Front-line workers in behavioral health will get a crash-course on the intersections of mental health and HIV at the Connecting the Dots II: Understanding the Intersection of HIV and Mental Health symposium on Nov. 16. The one-day conference — presented by the Penn Mental Health HIV/AIDS Research Center Community Advisory Board — will help psychologists, counselors, social workers, case managers, nurses and crisis workers to better understand the impact HIV has on behavioral health.

The World Health Organization reported in 2016 that only 38 percent of national HIV program managers said they provided mental-health screenings in HIV care settings, while 43 percent reported not providing any kind of mental-health screening or treatment for people with HIV. The impact of undiagnosed mental disorders can affect the intake of medication for those diagnosed with HIV. If one suffers from clinical depression, for example, they’re more likely not to take HIV medication or any other medications, Coviello added.

The Connecting the Dots symposium will address specific ways to integrate mental-health care into an HIV patient’s treatment. Front-line workers will learn about linking mental-health patients to HIV services. 

Connecting the Dots II: Understanding the Intersection of HIV and Mental Health will be held Nov. 16 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at Community Behavioral Health, 801 Market St., 11th floor. Admission is free.


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