New report on depression in HIV patients

Many HIV-infected individuals are at risk for depression, as many feel overwhelmed by the substantial changes in their lives. Growing research shows that HIV patients have more negative effects from depression, according to a report in AIDS Alert.

Jane Leserman, a research associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, notes that data shows that “psychological factors affect disease progression in HIV.” Over 50 percent of older adults with HIV have depression, said Tim Heckman of Ohio University. Doctors, therefore, must be aware that older patients are at risk.

Meanwhile, Gail Ironson, psychology professor at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, has found that HIV patients are vulnerable for depression right after diagnosis and also when symptoms first begin to show. Jerry Durham, a nurse and dean at Barnes College of Nursing in St. Louis, explained that HIV comes with an expectation of loss. Not treating depression can have stark results and can cost more in the long run.

Depression is associated with low immune response, disease progression, decreased survival, and lower quality of life as well. Leserman’s research showed that psychological factors can lead to faster HIV progression to AIDS. Her study of adult gay men and the stresses in their lives found that some patients prefer to remain stoic under stress.

Blood samples showed that cortisol levels appeared to predict which men would progress more rapidly to AIDS could lower the immune system. Leserman said that although there is little research available on cortisol, “our own findings showed that cortisol was not a very beneficial hormone for these men.”

Ref: “Clinicians, Researchers Starting to Understand Impact of Depression.” AIDS Alert 11/00. Vol. 15, No. 11, p. 129

Source: CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update. December 5, 2000.

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