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Nora Proops, The AIDS Beacon: HAART Associated With A Reduced Risk Of Suicide In HIV-Infected Patients

HAART Associated With A Reduced Risk Of Suicide In HIV-Infected Patients
by , Dec 19, 2009

A study published Wednesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that HIV-positive individuals experienced reduced rates of suicide after the initiation of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

The suicide rate among HIV-positive individuals nonetheless remains higher than the general population even after the introduction of HAART.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV-infected patients in some countries are eight times more likely to commit suicide. Typically, individuals are most at risk when they become aware of their status and when particularly ill.

A team of researchers in Switzerland led by Dr. Olivia Keiser followed over 15,000 patients between 1988 and 2008. The scientists compared trends in the suicide rate before and after HAART was established in 1996 in people with HIV/AIDS and in the general population of Switzerland, which has a high rate of suicide. Switzerland’s suicide rate is the 21st highest in the world according to the WHO.

Researchers noted that suicide rates declined in both men and women in the period of HAART use from 13.7 to 3.5 per 100,000 in men and from 11.6 to 5.7 per 100,000 in women.

An increased risk of suicide was associated with reduced CD4 cell counts. Patients with an advanced clinical stage of HIV illness had a higher suicide rate, a pattern also observed in other studies.

Suicide rates were also higher in older patients and intravenous drug users.

Despite the reduced rate of suicide for HIV/AIDS patients seen in the HAART era, the authors found that this rate remains higher than the rate for the general population. They conclude that HIV-infected patients remain an important target group for suicide prevention.

For more information, please see the study in the American Journal of Psychiatry (abstract).

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