Original Research

A suicide risk screening scale for HIV-infected persons in the immediate post-diagnosis period

R D Govender, L Schlebusch
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 14, No 2 | a79 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v14i2.79 | © 2013 R D Govender, L Schlebusch | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 December 2013 | Published: 04 June 2013

About the author(s)

R D Govender, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, South Africa
L Schlebusch, Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, South Africa


Background. The risk of suicidal tendencies in HIV-infected persons appears high and may parallel the increasing prevalence of suicidal behaviour in South Africa.

Objective. To construct a brief suicide risk screening scale (SRSS) as a self-administered instrument to screen for suicidal ideation in recently diagnosed HIV-infected persons.

Methods. An SRSS was developed, drawing 14 items from two established screening tests, and assessed using a sample of 150 HIV-infected consenting adults identified at a voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) clinic at an academic district level hospital in Durban, South Africa. Participants returned three weeks after their initial assessment for a re-assessment.

Results. The internal consistency of the SRSS was good (Cronbach’s alpha, 0.87), and its sensitivity (81%) was higher than its specificity (47%). The findings suggest that, despite certain limitations, the SRSS may be a valuable screening tool for suicidal ideation at VCT clinics.

Conclusion. Screening for suicide risk and possible suicidal behaviour in HIV-positive persons may form a routine aspect of comprehensive patient care at VCT clinics to assist with effective prevention and treatment.


Beck Hopelessness Scale; Beck Depression Inventory; Depression; Hopelessness; recent HIV-infection; Suicidal ideation; Suicide risk assessment; HIV


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