Africa: Integrating HIV and Mental Health Services for Better Overall Health

press release

A new publication by UNAIDS and WHO, launched today, emphasizes the importance of integrating HIV and mental health services for people living with HIV.

Mental health conditions increase the risk of HIV infection, and people living with HIV have an increased risk of mental health conditions, which are associated with lower retention in HIV care, increased risk behaviours and lower engagement with HIV prevention services.

Furthermore, despite an increasing body of evidence showing that common mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can be prevented, diagnosed and treated in low- and middle-income countries, services for mental health, neurological and substance use conditions are often not integrated into HIV services.

"Integrated approaches for HIV and mental health lead to better health outcomes, overall well-being and quality of life," said Dévora Kestel, Director of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Use. "In addition, such approaches don't have to be expensive."

Meg Doherty, Director of the Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes at WHO, added: "This new publication successfully brings together tools, best practices, case studies, and guidelines to help countries integrate mental health and HIV services, while improving access to care for the most vulnerable."

The publication is primarily intended for national and local policy-makers, and programme implementers at all levels. Organizations working on provision of mental health and HIV services more broadly will also find it useful. Beyond HIV, the considerations in the publication may be relevant to services for HIV comorbidities such as tuberculosis, viral hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infections.

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