On Mental Health Action Week, 23 – 29 March, NAT calls for the mental health needs of people living with HIV to be more widely recognised. Evidence shows there is a higher prevalence of psychological need amongst people with HIV compared with the general population, and HIV and mental health problems are both highly stigmatised – which often makes people unwilling to speak out.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
‘The mental health needs of people with HIV are often overlooked in favour of just focusing on physical health. People living with HIV are not only disproportionately affected by mental health problems but there is often a lack of psychological support available to them.
‘Many people find it difficult to come to terms with an HIV diagnosis and deal with the ongoing implications. In addition, the effects of stigma, discrimination, side effects of treatment and fluctuating symptoms can cause anxiety and depression. Psychological support can be as important for the health of someone with HIV as taking treatment, yet this is often ignored or not properly addressed. Poor mental health then undermines physical health. At a time of budget cuts, it is essential that decisions are not made which save money in the short-term but increase the burden on the NHS in the long-run.
‘NAT is currently part of a working group to draft national standards for psychological support for people living with HIV. We hope that these standards will lead to better and more consistent provision across the country. We are calling for the Department of Health to be consistent across long-term conditions and ensure that, just as it has committed to standards of psychological care and support for cancer, it commits to similar provisions for HIV.’