Stigma: A Contributing Factor to Depressive Symptoms in People with HIV Seeking Treatment at Gondar University Hospital
Endeshaw, Meheret M.
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Introduction: Depression is the one of the most common mental health disorders that people with HIV experience, with some figures placing rates of depression among people with HIV as high as 50%. HIV related stigma has been associated with depressive symptoms in studies outside of Ethiopia. These studies have also shown that depressive symptoms and stigma lead to poor engagement to care and ultimately, poor health outcomes. This cross sectional study was conducted to evaluate the relationship between stigma of HIV/AIDS and depressive symptoms in Gondar, Ethiopia. Methods: Patients receiving routine antiretroviral treatment (ART) at Gondar University Hospital ART clinic were recruited to participate in the study. We interviewed 55 patients who presented for routine HIV care during the study period. We evaluated depressive symptoms and stigma of HIV/AIDS using standardized measures. Multiple regression was used to assess the relationship between depressive symptoms and HIV related stigma and gender. Results: Females made up 63.6% of study participants and males made up 36.4%. A large proportion of participants either had a 7-12 grade education (41.8%) or did not have any formal education (25%). The majority of participants (78%) reported experiencing stigma lately. Sixty percent of participants reported depressive symptoms ranging in severity from mild to moderately severe. We found that higher levels of HIV-related stigma were significantly associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms (β = 0.464, p ≤ 0.001). However, gender was not associated with depressive symptoms (β = -0.027, p > 0.05). Conclusion: In this study, the experience of HIV-related stigma was associated with higher risk of depressive symptoms among HIV infected adults seeking care in Northern Ethiopia. Identifying opportunities to reduce stigma may be important in improving ART adherence and engagement to care in general. Programs offering support to individuals with HIV should evaluate the experience of stigma and screen for depressive symptoms in order to provide additional support to at-risk patients.
- Global health