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Severity of psychiatric symptoms after HIV testing
Am J Psychiatry 1993;150:775-779.
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: The authors were interested in the psychiatric effects of serological testing for HIV and what information feasibly available at intake might predict more severe psychiatric symptoms 1 year later. METHOD: HIV testing in a private office setting was offered to adults at perceived risk for HIV infection but without AIDS. At entry, then 6 and 12 months later, subjects were counseled by psychiatric nurses and assessed by the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, Beck Depression Inventory, Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Brief Symptom Inventory. RESULTS: Mean scores on all measures of psychiatric symptoms were lower at follow-up among both 106 HIV-positive and 222 HIV- negative adults. One year after HIV testing, 121 (37%) of the 328 subjects had scores associated with psychopathology. These elevated scores were not predicted by serostatus but by initial psychopathological scores (N = 150), annual income less than +15,000 (N = 114), being female (N = 46), and history of injection drug use (N = 32) and heterosexual risk factors (N = 60) as compared to males having sex with males (N = 236). CONCLUSIONS: Before the development of more severe physical symptoms, on average, knowledge of HIV infection does not increase psychiatric morbidity; however, regardless of serostatus, a notable percentage of at-risk adults have sustained high levels of psychiatric symptoms. Counseling during the HIV testing process provides an opportunity to identify these individuals for closer study and indicated psychiatric treatment.

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