Mental Health and Substance Use Among Patients in a North Carolina HIV Clinic

Linda M. Skalski, Melissa H. Watt, Jessica C. MacFarlane, Rae J.ean Proeschold-Bell, Jason E. Stout, Kathleen J. Sikkema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a significant public health concern in North Carolina, and previous research has pointed to elevated mental health distress and substance use among HIV-infected populations, which may impact patients' adherence to medications. The aims of this study were to describe the prevalence of mental health and substance use issues among patients of a North Carolina HIV clinic, to examine differences by demographic characteristics, and to examine factors associated with suboptimal adherence to HIV medications.

METHODS: This study was a secondary analysis of clinical data routinely collected through a health behavior questionnaire at a large HIV clinic in North Carolina. We analyzed data collected from February 2011 to August 2012.

RESULTS: The sample included 1,398 patients. Overall, 12.2% of patients endorsed current symptomology indicative of moderate or severe levels of depression, and 38.6% reported receiving a psychiatric diagnosis at some point in their life. Additionally, 19.1% had indications of current problematic drinking, and 8.2% reported problematic drug use. Nearly one-quarter (22.1%) reported suboptimal adherence to HIV medications. Factors associated with poor adherence included racial/ethnic minority, age less than 35 years, and indications of moderate or severe depression.

LIMITATIONS: The questionnaire was not completed systematically in the clinic, which may limit generalizability, and self-reported measures may have introduced social desirability bias.

CONCLUSION: Patients were willing to disclose mental health distress, substance use, and suboptimal medication adherence to providers, which highlights the importance of routinely assessing these behaviors during clinic visits. Our findings suggest that treating depression may be an effective strategy to improve adherence to HIV medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-155
Number of pages8
JournalNorth Carolina medical journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
©2015 by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and The Duke Endowment. All rights reserved.


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