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Antidepressants Help HIV-Infected Patients Stick to Treatment

Depression can cause many to skip their medicines, experts note

FRIDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- People with HIV who suffer from depression are much less likely to stick with their treatment regimens, new research shows.

However, treating their depression with widely used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants can get them back on track, the researchers said.

A team from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., analyzed the mental health, disease progression and treatment data of almost 3,400 HIV-infected patients nationwide between 2000 and 2003. All patients were starting a new, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

Reporting in the current online issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, they found that almost half of the study participants (42 percent) had depression during the 12-month study. Those who were depressed were less likely to take their medications and had worse viral response than people who were not depressed. However, when depressed people took prescribed SSRIs -- which include drugs such as Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft -- they had the same health outcomes as patients who were not depressed.

"The take-home point of this study is that depression carries a worse prognosis for HAART in HIV patients. However, we also found that SSRIs can reverse this and improve outcomes for HIV-depressed patients," lead author Dr. Michael A. Horberg, director of HIV/AIDS for Kaiser Permanente, said in a prepared statement. "HIV and depression often go hand in hand. If you are HIV-infected, you should be screened regularly for depression, and if you are depressed, and you are going to go on HAART, it's very worthwhile to treat your depression."

More information

To learn more about depression, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians.

-- Madeline Vann

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, December 2007

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