Original Articles

Qualitative study of the influence of antidepressants on the psychological health of patients on antiretroviral therapy in Uganda

Published in: African Journal of AIDS Research
Volume 11, issue 1, 2012 , pages: 37–44
DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2012.671260
Author(s): ElialiliaS OkelloDepartment of Psychiatry, Uganda, VictoriaK Ngo, United States, Gerry Ryan, United States, Seggane MusisiDepartment of Psychiatry, Uganda, Dickens AkenaDepartment of Psychiatry, Uganda, Noeline NakasujjaDepartment of Psychiatry, Uganda, Glenn Wagner, United States


The study set out to explore how HIV-positive individuals conceptualise and describe depression and its manifestation in their lives, and how this may change over time in the context of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and antidepressant treatment. We conducted in-depth interviews using a semi-structured interview guide with 26 adult HIV-positive clients receiving ART in Uganda. We asked the participants to describe their depression and its impact on their general health, physical functioning and psychological wellbeing, as well as the influences of receiving ART or antidepressant treatment. Although depressive experience among the patients was largely described in terms of criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), some of the symptoms used to describe depression, such as ‘thinking too much’ or worrisome thoughts, did not fit into the DSM-IV criteria. The participants attributed their depression to news of the HIV diagnosis, a fear of dying, the potential socioeconomic consequences of their HIV infection on their family, ART side-effects and continued bad health. Their subjective reports indicated that the treatment of depression with antidepressants had made a positive impact on their general and psychological health. These findings highlight the need for models of HIV care that integrate mental health services and promote the diagnosis and treatment of depression in culturally sensitive ways so as to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for clients. However, keeping the particular study design in mind, these findings should be interpreted as preliminary.

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