Combination Antiretroviral Therapy and Improvements in Mental Health

Results from a Nationally Representative Sample of Persons Undergoing Care for HIV in the United States

Published in: JAIDS, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, v. 33, no. 1, May 1, 2003, p. 104-111

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2003

by Kitty S. Chan, Maria Orlando Edelen, Geoffrey F. Joyce, Allen Gifford, M. Audrey Burnam, Joan S. Tucker, Cathy D. Sherbourne

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OBJECTIVE: To test whether mental health improvements observed in a nationally representative sample of 2466 HIV+ persons receiving care in the United States during the dissemination of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a result of global optimism or directly related to treatment. ANALYSIS: Data were analyzed by means of a linear regression model of the change in psychiatric symptoms from baseline (January 1996-April 1997) to the first followup interview approximately 8 months later as a function of changes in CD4+ counts, opportunistic infection treatments, and HIV physical symptoms in the overall sample and separately in participants who maintained ART, initiated ART, never received ART, or transitioned to a less recommended regimen during the study period. RESULTS: The reduction in psychiatric symptoms was comparable across all treatment groups (p > .05), suggesting a global effect. In patients who initiated or maintained ART, fewer psychiatric symptoms were significantly related to higher CD4+ and fewer opportunistic infection treatments and HIV symptoms, however, suggesting a treatment effect. CONCLUSION: ART appears to be responsible for both a treatment-specific and global improvement in the mental health of HIV+ patients, possibly through the promise of extended survival and a better quality of life.

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