MENTAL HEALTH services for people living with HIV are inconsistent in the NHS and do not meet their psychological needs, says a new report published by the National AIDS Trust (NAT).
The report – Psychological support for people living with HIV – shows a lack of adequate psychological support can have a severe impact on someone’s health and well-being and that there was evidence of higher prevalence of psychological need amongst people living with HIV.
Often, a HIV-positive patients psychological needs are overlooked because of a tendency to focus only on physical health and adherence to drug regimes, said the report.
Mark, who is living with HIV, spoke to NAT about the impact of having a mental health problem: “They reduce our immunity… If you are carrying so many things in your head there is no way you’re going to cope with your medication. So it comes back to HIV.”
Deborah Jack, CEO of NAT, said: “People can often find it difficult to come to terms with an HIV diagnosis and deal with the ongoing implications. Psychological support can be as important for the health and well-being of someone living with HIV as going to the doctor or taking treatment. This form of support can be the crucial difference between finding every day a struggle and feeling able to cope with and enjoy daily life.
“Providing such psychological support is more cost-effective in the long-run as it means that people living with HIV can manage their condition, take treatment properly and stay healthy. It is essential that, at this time of cuts, decisions are not made which may save money in the short-term but will increase the burden on the NHS in the long-run.”
Another person living with HIV told NAT: “I think it’s a bit of a post code lottery, really. Depends what clinic you go to and what services they have. My experience has been really good in terms of the support I’ve had. And I hear from other people that it’s not been good.”
Dr Hedge one of the experts involved in the review was concerned that attention is focused primarily on the medical management of HIV: “This is clearly essential but too narrow in focus.”
Dr Hedge made it clear that current guidance does not well serve the psychological needs of people living with HIV and that there has to be a role for stakeholders to ensure that this improves.
A spokesperson for at Abbott who funded the project said:“Mental health has become a major focus for Abbott’s HIV community engagement. Despite the advances in and access to treatments, many people living with HIV tell us that the psychological burden of the disease significantly compromises their quality of life,” said an Abbott spokesperson.
Key findings from the NAT report include:
Evidence of higher prevalence of psychological need amongst people living with HIV compared with the general population.
HIV and mental health problems are both highly stigmatised often making people unwilling to speak out about their needs.
Psychological needs of people living with HIV are not being met consistently by the NHS.
Investing in psychological support for people with HIV will have significant benefits in the long-run for individual and public health.
The download a copy of the report go to www.nat.org.uk