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People living with HIV need better psychological support

20th September 2010

Services for people living with HIV are not meeting their psychological needs, says a new report by NAT (National AIDS Trust).
 
The report 'Psychological Support for People Living with HIV' shows a lack of adequate psychological support can have a severe impact on someone's health and well-being.  NAT says more must be done to give support to people with psychological needs – at present these needs are too often overlooked because of a tendency for people to focus only on physical health. 
 
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT, says:
 
“People can often find it difficult to come to terms with an HIV diagnosis and deal with the ongoing implications.  Psychological support can be as important for the health and well-being of someone living with HIV as going to the doctor or taking treatment.  This form of support can be the crucial difference between finding every day a struggle and feeling able to cope with and enjoy daily life.
 
Providing such psychological support is more cost-effective in the long-run as it means that people living with HIV can manage their condition, take treatment properly and stay healthy.  It is essential that, at this time of cuts, decisions are not made which may save money in the short-term but will increase the burden on the NHS in the long-run.”
 
Key findings from the report include:

  • Evidence of higher prevalence of psychological need amongst people living with HIV compared with the general population
  • HIV and mental health problems are both highly stigmatised often making people unwilling to speak out about their needs
  • Psychological needs of people living with HIV are not being met consistently by the NHS
  • Investing in psychological support for people with HIV will have significant benefits in the long-run for individual and public health

Mark*, who is living with HIV, spoke about the impact of having a mental health problem: 
 
“They reduce our immunity… If you are carrying so many things in your head there is no way you’re going to cope with your medication. So it comes back to HIV.”
 
* name has been changed

 
Abbott, the global health care company, provided funding for this project to help ensure a copy of the report reaches every HIV clinic in the UK.
 
“Mental health has become a major focus for Abbott's HIV community engagement.  Despite the advances in and access to treatments, many people living with HIV tell us that the psychological burden of the disease significantly compromises their quality of life.  NAT's report will help inform all stakeholders about the need to consider the psychological impact of living with HIV on the quality of life and, consequently, health care provisions,” said an Abbott spokesperson.

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