ASHM Report Back

Clinical posts from members and guests of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) from various international medical and scientific conferences on HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexual health.

Psychosocial complexity in HIV care

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The talk was by Ruth Hennessy who is a clinical psychologist based at the Albion centre in Sydney.

Although relevant to any area of HIV care, I was interested due to my work with children and young people living with HIV as well as my work with women living with HIV and prevention of transmission of HIV to their infants where I experience a high level of psychosocial needs. 

The speaker, Ruth stated that people living with HIV have higher incidence of mental health issues and then went onto highlight that marginalised groups are affected by HIV. It has been established that Psychosocial issues affect access to care and care outcomes and therefore treatment of psychococial issues can remove obstacles to care.

The psychology team at the Albion centre collected data around presenting psychosocial issues in their client group and compared the data over a number of years. 

Age range was 23-68 years with a high proportion of men. 44 % of sample were born OS. 

An  overall increase in issues around depression, self harm, welfare issues, alcohol and drug misuse was found. Interestingly, a reduction in adherance issues was found, which is encouraging.  This probably reflects the relatively simple medications increasingly available now to treat HIV.  The data collected overall supported the teams belief that their clients psychosicial needs  had increased in complexity.

What might help in the future to support this client group?

it was  suggested that having 'Complexity predictors' and interdisciplinary intensive support would assist in identifying which clients who may need extra  support. It was also suggested that Establishing standards for psychological support for adults living with HIV would assist in providing appropriate care. 

In the paediatric population within Australia, HIV is largely not a sexually transmitted disease and is further complicated by issues such as adoption,history of trauma and of course  the child or young person may not know ( or understand) their diagnosis and must, at some stage, learn of it and how it was contracted. The availability of complexity predictors could be a useful resource in assisting and supporting families and their children living with HIV. Despite more simple and available drug formularies, psychosocial issues are a large part of care required it seems across many age groups and therefore require further attention. 

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