HIV News: People With Mental Illness Have Low Number Of HIV Testing; Researchers Suggest To Have Them Tested

First Posted: Jan 21, 2017 05:14 AM EST

A new research found that people with severe mental illness are less likely to be screened for HIV, compared to the general population. The researchers added that they are at higher risk for infection of the AIDS-causing virus.

The study that was published on Jan. 17 in the journal Psychiatric Services. It includes nearly 57,000 Medicaid patients in California. The participants are ages between 18 and 67. The study participants were all taking medications to treat major depression with psychosis, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The study revealed that less than 7 percent of them have been tested for HIV. The researchers compared it to the 5 percent of the state's general population in 2011.

The Health Day reported that the study authors said the result of their study suggests a missed opportunity to treat HIV infection early in people with severe mental illness. The study first author at the University of California, San Francisco's department of psychiatry, Dr. Christina Mangurian, said that, "This is a missed prevention opportunity to detect HIV early in the course of illness. People with severe mental illness have higher rates of unsafe behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection."

Mangurian explained in a university news release that the risky behavior may include having unprotected sex with HIV-positive partners and partners of unknown HIV status, an episode of sexual violence and injecting drugs. "Previous studies have found that people with severe mental illness die up to 25 years earlier than the general population."

Mangurian suggested that most of those deaths came from early heart disease. However, HIV and other infectious diseases also add up to earlier death among the people with severe mental illness. She said that, "Effective treatments are widely available and people with severe mental illness appear to comply with antiretroviral therapies at rates similar to other groups. We believe that annual HIV testing should be strongly considered by public mental health administrators," according to Medical Xpress. 

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