Original Research

Treating depression in HIV-positive patients affects adherence

M Y H Moosa, F Y Jeenah
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 13, No 3 | a128 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v13i3.128 | © 2012 M Y H Moosa, F Y Jeenah | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 December 2012 | Published: 16 August 2012

About the author(s)

M Y H Moosa, Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
F Y Jeenah, Division of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Aim. To determine changes in adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in HIV-positive patients with depression, following treatment with an antidepressant or psychotherapy.

Methods. The study was prospective, randomised and controlled. Consenting volunteers aged ≥18 years and stable on ART for ≥6 months were included in the study. Sociodemographic data were obtained, and a clinical diagnostic evaluation and the Hamilton Depression rating scale (HAMD) were performed on all subjects at entry to and at the end of the study. Participants found to be depressed were randomly assigned antidepressant treatment (20 mg citalopram) or interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) (5 sessions). Medication was dispensed at each visit and patients were asked to return all unused medication to determine ART adherence. The study was approved by the University of the Witwatersrand.

Results. Sixty-two HIV-positive persons receiving ART participated; 30 were not depressed (control group) and 32 were depressed (patient group). No significant differences in demographic characteristics existed between the control and patient groups. Mean ART adherence at the start of the study was 99.5% (standard error (SE) ±0.46) and 92.1% (SE ±1.69) in the control and patients groups, respectively. Mean ART adherence at the end of the study changed marginally in the control group (99.7%; SE ±0.46) and increased significantly in the patient group (99.5%; SE± 0.13) (p>0.05). The mean ART adherence rate of patients who received pharmacotherapy increased from 92.8% to 99.5%, and of those who received psychotherapy increased from 91.1% to 99.6% (p>0.05). There was no significant association between the increased adherence in the patient group and baseline demographic and clinical characteristics, irrespective of antidepressant therapy or IPT (p>0.05).

Conclusion. Successful treatment of depression with an antidepressant or psychotherapy was associated with improved ART adherence, independent of the type of treatment and sociodemographic factors. It is necessary to identify HIV-positive patients at risk of depression, to initiate antidepressant treatment which may prevent ART non-adherence, and subsequent disease progression and increased morbidity.


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