Health Professionals’ Perceptions of the Integration of Mental Health Into HIV Services

  •  Winnie Baphumelele Cele    
  •  Euphemia Mbali Mhlongo    


INTRODUCTION: Mental health conditions have been reported to be common in people living with HIV (PLWH). Research has shown that the chances of PLWH experiencing mental health disorders is very high. It is claimed that there exists a link between mental health and HIV, given the neurotoxic effects of treatment on the HIV patients’ central nervous systems. The justification for the incorporation of mental health services into other medical services at the primary health care level is founded on epidemiologic data, which shows that psychiatric conditions are prevalent in primary health care.

METHODS: The study adopted a mixed method approach using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The target population included nurses, doctors, psychologists and experts on mental health and HIV attending to patients on a daily basis, at primary health care centres and in mental Health care institutions and HIV service centres. Questionnaires were administered to 200 participants. Focus group discussions were conducted with three groups of health professionals who met the inclusion criteria. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with the key informants. The study was done at three primary health care centres rendering mental health and HIV services.

RESULTS: It was observed that 75%, of the participants had negative perceptions of the integration of mental health into HIV services at Primary Health care centers. The majority of the participants (85%) disagreed that they had received any form of awareness of links between mental health and HIV. In other words, only 15% agreed. Eighty-nine per cent (89%) stated that people with mental health problems should be treated separately from PLWH. Most health professionals were not ready for the integration of mental health into HIV services.

CONCLUSION: The findings of this study revealed that there are still factors that hinder the integration of mental health into HIV services at primary health care centres that need to be taken into consideration before this integration can be implemented successfully.

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