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HIV and Depression

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It is a normal reaction to feel down, or even devastated, after being diagnosed with HIV or during the course of the disease. These feelings can become severe and limit the energy you need to stay focused on being healthy. If you have some or all of the symptoms below, you could have another illness called depression. HIV does not naturally cause depression. Depression is a separate physical illness that needs to be treated. Research shows that depression can speed up HIV's progression to AIDS.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • sadness, anxiety, and irritability
  • loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • sleep problems
  • fatigue
  • loss of concentration
  • low sex drive

It may be hard to diagnose depression in someone with HIV. Some of the HIV drugs and symptoms of HIV are the same as those of depression. These include fatigue, low sex drive, little appetite, confusion, nightmares, nervousness, and weight loss. But a true loss of interest in activities that someone used to enjoy is a sign that a person is depressed.

If a person is depressed, and the symptoms aren't a result of the disease itself or HIV drugs, treatment for depression can help. Treatment may include therapy and antidepressant medicines. Therapy is sitting and talking with a professional about how you are feeling. Antidepressants are usually safe for people with HIV. But there may be interactions with other drugs, so it's important that you and your doctor watch for side effects. Do not use St. John's wort, a drug that some people use to treat mild depression. It has harmful interactions with HIV medicines. Visit our section on mental health for more information.

Additional Information on HIV and Depression:


  1. Coping with AIDS and HIV (Copyright © APA) - This publication explains the impact of having AIDS on mental health. Advice is provided on how to deal with distress, depression and anxiety as a result of the disease and/or the treatment.
  2. Depression and HIV (Copyright © AIDS InfoNet) - This article discusses how and why depression affects those infected with HIV and how depression is treated.
  3. Depression and HIV (Copyright © Project Inform) - This publication gives information on depression for people who are HIV positive. It explains the signs of depression, and discusses treatment options and where to get help.
  4. Depression and HIV/AIDS (Copyright © Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) - This publication gives information on depression and HIV. It also explains how to treat depression if you are HIV positive.
  5. Women and Depression (Copyright © The Well Project) - This publication explains how depression can be a serious problem for HIV positive women. It includes information on identifying the symptoms of depression and how it can be treated.

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