A link between HIV and depression may seem obvious to many who have worked in the sector, but a new study shows it has more to do with being gay and marginalised.
The study published last month by the National Centre for HIV Social Research found HIV positive and negative gay men had higher rates of major depression than the general population.
Dr Christy Newman, who authored the study, attributed the high rates to marginalisation and discrimination experienced by gay men, described in many of the interviews as not fitting in.
While HIV by itself was ruled out as an independent factor, socioeconomic hardship and interpersonal isolation were associated with high rates of major depression among the gay men surveyed.
The study was based on interviews with 30 GPs and a survey of 700 men from high HIV-caseload practices in Sydney and Adelaide. One in four had major depression at the time of the survey.
One participant, 44-year-old HIV positive Lucian, said HIV did have an impact.
Throw HIV into this equation, where people still don’t deal well with it, he said.
One person wants you to fuck them dead without anything and the other person is freaking out because they think you have everything under the sun.
And it’s like, what, who do you listen to? And when do you, how do you find the stillness to just sit in your identity and move on from there? It’s just, to me, a cocktail of craziness at the moment.
Newman said GPs had a heightened awareness for depression in positive patients, and because they frequently developed long-term relationships with their gay patients they were often actively involved in managing the depression.
However, she argued the capacity for GPs to provide ideal level of services to these HIV positive and gay communities was compromised by an increasing number of complicating factors that the GPs had to deal with, especially when patients also used non-prescription drugs.
I have actually seen stable people who I thought were quite well controlled, either their cognitive behavioural therapy or their antidepressant medication, talk to me about suicidal intent coming down off their crystal, the study quoted one Sydney GP.

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