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Mental Health in Youths With HIV

Mental Health in Youths With HIV

Previous research has linked poor mental health among people living with HIV to a greater likelihood of participating in risky behaviors. “Untreated mental illnesses can be detrimental to the health and well-being of younger patients with HIV and may place others at risk for being infected with the virus,” says Laura B. Whiteley, MD. Exploring Disparities Few studies have explored disparities in the receipt of mental healthcare among adolescents and young adults living with HIV. To address this issue, Dr. Whiteley and colleagues had a study published in the Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care. The researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey of 1,706 HIV-infected adolescents and young adults aged 13 to 26 who were engaged in care. According to findings, there was a significant disparity in mental healthcare utilization for psychiatrically symptomatic African-American adolescents and young adults living with HIV. “African-American youth with psychiatric symptoms were significantly less likely than non-African Americans to have received mental healthcare and psychiatric medications,” says Dr. Whiteley. Conversely, Latinos were more likely than non-Latinos to report receiving mental healthcare. The lack of disparity also extended to sexual minorities and impoverished or homeless youth and young adults. Targeting Efforts Information from the study may help clinicians target efforts to overcome barriers for managing this specific patient population. “More initiatives to engage African-American youth and young adults who are receiving medical care could be needed,” Dr. Whiteley says. She adds that efforts should be made within all HIV treatment sites to reduce disparities for minority patients. The focus of these efforts should be toward educating parents, patients, and providers about common...
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