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Mental Health in Primary Human Immunodeficiency Virus Care in South Africa: A Study of Provider Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice

Mall, Sumaya MPH*†; Sorsdahl, Katherine PhD; Struthers, Helen MsC, MBA‡§; Joska, John A. MBCHB, PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: March 2013 - Volume 201 - Issue 3 - p 196–201
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182845c24
Original Articles

The role of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome care providers in detecting mental disorders in their patients is important to strengthen retention in antiretroviral care programs as well as adherence to treatment. A convenience sample of 66 HIV service providers were asked to participate in the study before attending a workshop. Two vignettes portraying HIV patients with depression and substance use (specifically problematic alcohol use) were presented to respondents to investigate their mental health literacy and attitudes toward mental disorders. Results indicated that 50% of respondents recognized depression (57% of professionals and 39% of nonprofessionals) and 37% recognized mental illness (28% of professionals and 31% of nonprofessionals). Psychosocial stress was reported more frequently than medical etiologies as a possible cause of mental disorders. Seeking help from a health professional in the form of psychotherapy was often endorsed as an effective treatment option. Further effort is required to educate HIV service providers about the psychobiological underpinnings of psychiatric disorders and effective treatments.

*Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch †Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Cape Town; ‡ANOVA Health Institute, Johannesburg; and §Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Send reprint requests to Sumaya Mall, MPH, Department of Psychology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, Private Bag x 1, Matieland 7602, South Africa. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.