About one in five people with HIV have symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which in a recent study was associated with lower rates of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, adherence to treatment and full suppression of the virus, aidsmap reports.

Linda Beer, PhD, and colleagues from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data on 3,654 people surveyed by the Medical Monitoring Project who were a representative sample of the U.S. HIV population.

Nineteen percent of the participants had GAD, compared with a 2.7% prevalence among the general U.S. population.

People had higher rates of anxiety symptoms if they were men, lacked a college education, were living in poverty and had recently experienced homelessness.

The prevalence of GAD was 33% among those with a disability and 8% among those without one. In addition, 41% of those reporting intimate partner violence and 43% of those reporting sexual violence had GAD—rates that were about twice those of people reporting no such violence. People with GAD experienced greater levels of HIV-related stigma compared with those without the mental health condition.

Among those with and without GAD, a respective 82% and 87% were on ARVs; a respective 51% and 62% of those on ARVs took their meds every day; a respective 56% and 64% had an undetectable viral load; a respective 75% and 11% had depressive symptoms; a respective 23% and 7% needed mental health services; and a respective 9% and 6% reported having condomless sex when they had a detectable viral load with a partner who was not known to be taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). People with GAD were also more likely to smoke and use drugs compared with those without the anxiety disorder.

“Incorporating routine screening for GAD in HIV clinical settings may help improve health outcomes, reduce HIV transmission and save health care costs,” the study authors suggested.

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.

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