HIV Diagnosis is Higher Among Mental Health Recipients

By Tamara Thomas - July 11, 2023

HIV occurs more than twice as frequently in people who use mental health services than in the general population, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal Open.

Previous research has found that mental health staff have poor knowledge regarding sexual health, which affects their confidence in having conversations about the risks of HIV and other infections. 

For this study, Dr. Margaret Heslin and colleagues at King’s College London studied the occurrence of HIV in people who received secondary mental health services in the UK.

The study included over one hundred and eighty thousand people who had contact with mental health services in the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service Trust for the first time between 2007 and 2018. 

The researchers observed that HIV is 2.5 times more common in people who use mental health services than the general population in South London. 

According to the study, this group’s most common mental health diagnosis was substance disorders (18%), followed by mood disorders (15%).

“The relationship between HIV and mental illness is a complex one. The increased prevalence could be a real increase resulting from people with mental health needs being more at risk of acquiring HIV, or from people with HIV being more likely to develop a mental illness or a combination of both.” Dr. Helsin said. 

The Researchers recommended that future studies examine the risk factors for HIV in people in contact with mental health services to understand the risk in this group.

“Additionally, we know that people with mental illness often receive worse physical health care than the general population, so we need to examine whether people with mental illness and HIV get the same standard of HIV care as the rest of the population.”



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