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Treatment for HIV and Depression

Treatment for depression in the context of HIV or AIDS should be managed by a mental health professional -- for example, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or clinical social worker -- who is in close communication with the physician providing the HIV/AIDS treatment.
While there are many different treatments for depression, they must be carefully chosen by a trained professional based on the circumstances of the person and family.
HIV and Depression: Medications
Prescription antidepressants are generally well tolerated and safe for people with HIV. There are, however, possible interactions among some of the medications and side effects that require careful monitoring. Specific types of psychotherapy, or "talk" therapy, also can relieve depression.
HIV and Depression: Herbal Remedies
Some individuals with HIV attempt to treat their depression with herbal remedies. However, use of herbal supplements of any kind should be discussed with a physician before they are tried. Scientists recently discovered that St. John's wort, an herbal remedy sold over-the-counter and promoted as a treatment for mild depression, can have harmful interactions with other medications, including those prescribed for HIV. In particular, St. John's wort reduces blood levels of the protease inhibitor indinavir (Crixivan®) and likely the other protease inhibitor medications as well. If taken together, the combination could allow the AIDS virus to rebound, perhaps in a drug-resistant form.

HIV and Depression: Final Thoughts

Recovery from depression takes time. Medications for depression can take several weeks to work, and may need to be combined with ongoing psychotherapy. Not everyone responds to treatment in the same way. Prescriptions and dosing may need to be adjusted. No matter how advanced the HIV, however, the person does not have to suffer from depression. Treatment can be effective.
It takes more than access to good medical care for persons living with HIV to stay healthy. A positive outlook, determination, and discipline are also required to deal with the stresses of avoiding high-risk behaviors, keeping up with the latest scientific advances, adhering to complicated medication regimens, reshuffling schedules for doctor visits, and grieving over the death of loved ones.
Other mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) and anxiety disorders, may occur in people with HIV or AIDS, and they, too, can be effectively treated.
Remember, depression is a treatable disorder of the brain. It can be treated in addition to whatever other illnesses a person might have, including HIV. If you think you may be depressed or know someone who is, don't lose hope. Seek help for depression.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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