ATLANTA, G.A., November 30, 2023 — Mental health is a crucial yet often overlooked component of life with HIV. Research illustrates correlations between the mental health of individuals living with HIV and the outcomes of their treatment, highlighting compounding factors like marginalization and stigma that may put some people at greater risk.
StopHIVATL improves the quality of life for people living with HIV in Atlanta, especially the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to redefine the concept of comprehensive HIV treatment and increase access to mental health education, support, and resources. By exploring the unique mental health challenges facing people with HIV, we are developing more inclusive and effective mental health support.
What is Mental Health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being that enables individuals to cope with life’s stresses, realize their potential, learn effectively, work efficiently, and contribute to their community. Mental health is a complex continuum that every person experiences differently, with varying levels of difficulty and distress. Individual, social, and structural factors can affect mental health. Protective factors such as social and emotional skills, positive social interactions, quality education, safe communities, and access to care can help promote and improve mental health.
Confronting HIV’s Mental Health Toll
Receiving an HIV diagnosis can immensely impact a person and cause intense emotional distress. The stigma surrounding HIV may make it difficult for people to disclose their status or seek support, exacerbating feelings of shame and isolation. Some people living with chronic illnesses like HIV also experience psychological distress and fatigue related to managing their disease daily and accessing medical treatment. For members of historically marginalized groups like POC and the LGBTQ+ community, adverse mental health impacts may be even more severe due to greater discrimination and barriers to treatment access.
A Look at the Data
Studies show that people living with HIV experience higher rates of mental health disorders than the general population. This population exhibits mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders at greater frequencies, with clinical depression as the most common mental health condition. For people living with HIV and depression, symptoms can affect day-to-day life. They report experiencing feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, or apathy, interruptions in sleeping and eating habits, and even suicidal ideation.
Mental Health’s Effect on HIV Treatment Outcomes
There is evidence that impairment in mental health can lead to negative health outcomes at each stage in the HIV care continuum, from diagnosis to viral suppression. Mental illnesses can create significant obstacles to proper engagement and retention in HIV primary care. Research shows that depression is a strong predictor of poor adherence to cART (combination antiretroviral therapy), which can diminish the effectiveness of treatment and lower a person’s quality of life.
Improving Outcomes Through Inclusion
By harnessing the growing body of dedicated research, StopHIVATL is leading urgent efforts to improve and expand critical mental health services to metro Atlanta. We believe that everyone deserves access to inclusive and culturally competent HIV treatment and support. StopHIVATL dedicates our funding resources to connecting Atlantans with comprehensive HIV treatment services that incorporate and support mental health within the context of HIV. Our inclusive, non-judgmental approach extends beyond medical care, emphasizing the importance of holistic well-being and support for mental health challenges.
StopHIVATL’s Commitment to LGBTQ+ Inclusivity
StopHIVATL connects individuals living with HIVA in Atlanta with accessible, inclusive, and queer-centric mental health resources to provide them with more effective and comprehensive care. We are a nonprofit organization committed to promoting judgment-free harm reduction, inclusive sexual health education and resources, sex positivity, and accessible community health engagement. We believe in providing essential sexual health resources to everyone, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, and our services are supported and guided by queer individuals. They include:
- Confidential Testing: We offer HIV and STI testing services in an inclusive, judgment-free environment. Knowing your status is the first step to taking control of your sexual health.
- PrEP: Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a highly effective prescription medication for preventing HIV transmission. StopHIVATL offers Atlanta-based resources, information, and referrals to access PrEP.
- Treatment Resources: For Atlantans living with HIV, we connect you with treatment options and support services to help ensure you live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life.
- Community Engagement: StopHIVATL actively participates in community events and initiatives throughout metro Atlanta to foster community, belonging, and sexual health.
- Safe Spaces: We provide a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals to seek information and support without fear of judgment or discrimination.
About StopHIVATL: StopHIVATL is an organization that advocates for harm reduction, sexual health, sex positivity, and health engagement. They offer a wide variety of inclusive, non-judgmental information and resources related to sexual health, drug user safety, Mpox, community events, and more. The testing, prevention (PrEP), and treatment resources that StopHIVATL provides are confidential, secure, and accessible to anyone residing in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties.
Want to learn more about StopHIVATL’s mission and services? Visit www.stophivatl.org