Original Research

Hopelessness, depression and suicidal ideation in HIV-positive persons

R D Govender, L Schlebusch
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 18, No 1 | a302 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v18i1.302 | © 2012 R D Govender, L Schlebusch | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 April 2011 | Published: 01 February 2012

About the author(s)

R D Govender, Department of Family Medicine, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
L Schlebusch, Department of Behavioural Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal

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Background and objectives. HIV/AIDS and suicidal behaviour are major public health concerns. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between hopelessness, depression and suicidal ideation in HIV-infected persons.

Methods. The sample consisted of all adult volunteers attending a voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) HIV clinic at a university affiliated state hospital. Suicidal ideation and depression were measured using the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), respectively, at two intervals, viz. 72 hours and 6 weeks after HIV diagnosis.

Results. Of the 156 patients who tested positive for HIV, 32 (20.5%) had a hopelessness score of 9 or above on the BHS and 130 patients (82.8%) were depressed according to the BDI at 72 hours after diagnosis. Of the 109 patients assessed 6 weeks after diagnosis, 32 (28.8%) had a hopelessness score of >9 on the BHS and 86 (78.2%) were depressed according to the BDI. A moderately positive correlation at both time periods was found between hopelessness and depression. A ROC analysis showed optimal sensitivity, indicating that the HIV-positive depressed patients were at risk for suicidal behaviour.

Conclusion. The significant correlations between hopelessness, depression and suicidal ideation are important markers that should alert healthcare professionals to underlying suicide risks in HIV-positive patients. Early recognition of this and suicide prevention strategies should be incorporated into the treatment offered at VCT HIV clinics.


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