HIV and Elevated Mental Health Problems: Diagnostic, Treatment, and Risk Patterns for Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress in a National Community-Based Cohort of Gay Men Living with HIV
People living with HIV (PLHIV) have almost double the risk of depression than the rest of the population, and depression and anxiety among PLHIV have been linked with greater disease progression and other physical health problems. Studies to date, however, have focused almost exclusively on depression or general mental health. Much less research has investigated predictors of anxiety and generalized stress among HIV-positive gay men. This paper reports findings from a national community-based sample of 357 HIV-positive Australians gay men aged 18 years and older. Participants reported elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and generalized stress symptoms. A significant proportion of men with elevated depression and anxiety symptoms were not receiving treatment or had not been diagnosed. Risk factors for elevated mental health concerns included experiences of internalized stigma and discrimination. Anxiety was also associated with lower T-cell CD4 counts. A key protective factor was access to social support. The type of support, in particular emotional support, was found to be more important than the source of support. Our findings suggest that greater emphasis is needed on mental health screening and the provision of emotional support for PLHIV.