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HIV/AIDS & Depression

I am applying for graduate school for the September 2007 for a Master’s in public health. Eventually I’d like to do international HIV & AIDS education, and the social/psychological side of how HIV & AIDS affects sufferers – especially women, as we are still the fastest growing demographic to contract HIV.

Some of the main symptoms of depression, according to the NIMH include the following:

  • persistant sad, anxious or “empty” moods
  • feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplesness
  • loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies & activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • appetite and/or weight changes
  • thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • restlessness, irritability

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in three persons living with HIV also suffers from depression. This means, that since 1981, as many as 300,000 (of the 900,000) of those with HIV deal with depression. Not only is depression a mental illness, it has been shown that depression in an HIV patient can also inhibit their body’s ability to fight off the virus, leaving the patient more susceptible to AIDS.

Generally, anti-depressants do not interfere with HIV anti-virals or AIDS medications, however, St. John’s wort does. The NIMH writes that St. John’s wort “reduces blood levels of the protease inhibitor indinavir and probably the other protease inhibiting drugs as well.” HIV/AIDS patients should first check with their physicians before experimenting with both prescription & non-prescription drugs.

Remember that depression is treatable. There may be no cure for HIV/AIDS or a “cure” for depression, but both illnesses can be treated and managed. If you think you may have been exposed to the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) or think you may be depressed, please seek the advice of your doctors.

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