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U.S. News

AIDS and Depression: Ohio University Tests HIV Phone Therapy

January 21, 2010

Can depressed HIV/AIDS patients in rural settings benefit from weekly psychotherapy sessions by telephone? An Ohio University professor of geriatric medicine/gerontology hopes his new study will answer that question.

"Telephone-administered psychotherapy has been used before to reduce depression, but it's never been tested with rural people living with HIV who are also diagnosed with depression," said Timothy Heckman, whose four-year project is supported by a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The patients who comprise the target population face different challenges than HIV patients in urban settings. "The isolation, the limited access to medical and mental health services, fewer employment opportunities, more financial difficulties, issues of stigma and discrimination -- a wide variety of issues," said Heckman, who directs the university's Center for Telemedicine Research and Interventions.

The research will recruit 180 participants from rural counties of 20,000 people or less across the United States. Half the subjects will receive standard care for depression, which could include antidepressants, support groups, and community therapy. The other half will receive standard care plus calls from licensed psychologists who will administer interpersonal psychotherapy.

"Ultimately, if interpersonal psychotherapy is shown to be helpful, we hope AIDS service organizations can provide [it] for many HIV-infected people living in the rural community, moving it from the research arena to community settings," Heckman said.

Advocates are hopeful the approach succeeds, particularly given that funding shortfalls have led to a scarcity of mental health services in rural Ohio and elsewhere.

Back to other news for January 2010

Adapted from:
Columbus Dispatch
01.17.2010; Mary Beth Lane

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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