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Mental health related to asymptomatic, symptmatic label?
Sep 3, 2004

Hello, I recently came across a client who was checked off on a health-screening form of ours as being both Asymptomatic and having HIV-related depresssion. My specific question is: If this client has depression that is a result of HIV, isn't he automatically symptomatic because he expresses a symptom (depression) that is common with HIV? The broader question would be: does mental health have anything to do with the conventional designations of asymptomatic or symptomatic or are these just constructs demonstrating physical (medical) status? thanks

Response from Dr. Horwath

When someone is referred to as HIV+ and symptomatic, it usually refers to the symptoms commonly seen as signs of waning immunity, eg. weight loss, lymphadenopathy.

People who are HIV+ certainly may develop depression, but this is usually not thought to be related to the immunodeficiency that results from HIV infection. People with HIV infection may also develop signs of cognitive impairment. If these are severe and qualify for a diagnosis of HIV-associated dementia, then this is considered an AIDS-defining illness, and is thought to result from the effects of the virus on the central nervous system.

However, you make a good point in highlighting our tendency to separate physical and mental conditions when, in fact, we know them to be inseparable. Our growing understanding of the biological basis of mental disorders may help us to bridge this gap.



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