Despite significant medical advancements related to HIV treatment and quality of life, the risk of suicide in patients is high and health care providers should prioritize mental health screenings in this population.
Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine found that people living with HIV and AIDS are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and die from suicide compared to the general population.
Despite significant medical advancements related to HIV treatment and quality of life, the risk of suicide in patients is high and health care providers should prioritize mental health screenings in this population, according to the study authors.
The findings came from the recent results of a College of Medicine study that suggests for every 2 people living with HIV/AIDS who have suicidal thoughts, 1 person will attempt suicide and out of 13 suicide attempts, 1 will result in death.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 185,000 adults living with HIV/AIDS and examined their risk factors and incidences of attempted and completed suicides among this population. An alarming finding showed that not only is suicidal ideation higher, but those living with HIV/AIDS were 100 times more likely to die by suicide compared to the general population, according to the study authors.
“There is an urgent need to prioritize mental health screening and care into all HIV testing and treatment settings,” said Paddy Ssentongo, MD, researcher and an epidemiology doctoral student, in the press release. “Suicide risk should be assessed in all HIV patients, especially in those who are newly-diagnosed and those with advanced disease.”
These findings highlight that people living with HIV/AIDS in North America are 50 times more likely to commit suicide compared to those living in Europe. Additionally, the highest rates of suicide attempts in those with HIV/AIDS are found in North America, South America, and Australia, and the risk was even higher for newly diagnosed individuals and those whose illness progressed to AIDS.
The researchers note that several possible factors, such as advanced disease and societal stigmas, are possible reasons for the increased risk of suicide among people living with HIV/AIDS. However, data from the study showed that patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy were less likely to commit suicide, and mental health screenings and interventions for this population are crucial, according to the study authors.