The United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS [UNAIDS] has urged Government to integrate mental health and HIV services.
The call was made on the commemoration of the world mental health day that is observed annually on 10th 0ctober.
According to UNAIDS, People living with HIV are at a greatly increased risk of developing mental health conditions, often suffering from depression, anxiety, euphoria, hallucinations and psychosis as they adjust to their diagnosis and adapt to living with a chronic infectious disease.
Research shows that rates of mental health problems may be as high as 50 percent in people living with HIV.
Despite the high prevalence of mental illness, psychiatric disorders are commonly under-diagnosed and under-treated in this population.
UNAIDS research shows that people living with mental health problems can also be at higher risk of HIV; exacerbated by low access to information and knowledge of HIV, including how to prevent it, injecting drug use, sexual contact with people who inject drugs, sexual abuse and low use of condoms.
Michel Sidibe the UNAIDS Executive Director said at the event, “Integrating HIV and mental health services, governments will be able to reach more people with the specialist care and life-saving support they urgently need”.
Currently, very few health services are addressing the HIV-related needs of people living with mental health issues or the mental health issues of people living with HIV.
Sidibe added that identifying mental health issues among people living with HIV is critical adding that services should ensure access to voluntary and confidential HIV testing and counseling for people who may be at increased risk of HIV.