A world-first new online program aims to treat the depression and anxiety often experienced by gay and bisexual men who are living with HIV.

The program, iAdapt, is being evaluated by the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression, part of St Vincent’s Hospital’s mental health services.

Over 40 per cent of people living with HIV will suffer from a clinical depression and/or anxiety problem, with many unable to access adequate treatment due to lack of services in their area or finding it hard to talk about difficulties.

iAdapt is a cognitive behavioural therapy program, designed to help people in accessing quality support and care.

It provides participants with the skills to self-manage anxiety and depression through illustrated lessons, progress trackers, self-led learning and resources.

Researcher Dr Mike Millard said the need to be more flexible in treating the emotional difficulties experienced by people who are living with HIV is increasingly acknowledged.

“There is a growing realisation of the importance of mental health in good care as advances in treatment have turned HIV into a manageable chronic disease,” he said.

“However, high quality face-to-face psychological therapy is not always available to patients, especially those in rural and remote areas.

“Because most Australians have access to the internet, this provides an exciting opportunity to deliver psychological therapy to patients who need it. They can learn the tools to self-manage depression and anxiety in their own time, in the privacy and comfort of their own homes”.

The team at St Vincent’s are excited by preliminary results from the trial.

“Over twenty patients have already started in the trial and the feedback we’re getting is very positive so far,” said Dr Millard.

“Patients are identifying with the course material and are finding it helpful in tackling their depression and anxiety”.

The online course is expected to become available to the general community in mid-2018.

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