Antidepressant drugs may help alleviate symptoms of fatigue, even in HIV-positive people who are not otherwise depressed. These findings were presented at the Fifth International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Cape Town.

Fatigue and depression often go hand in hand. People with fatigue often struggle with depression, and people with clinical depression also frequently have fatigue. Though the two are separate conditions, what helps with one condition may sometimes help with the other.

To determine whether treating depression might also help with fatigue, Bruno Spire, PhD, from the Université Aix-Marseille, in France, and his colleagues examined data from the French nationwide HEPAVIH cohort and surveyed a select group of patients from that study. In the study reported here, all of the patients were infected with both HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV). None of the people in the study, however, had opportunistic infections or were on HCV therapy, but most were taking HIV treatment. In the surveys, the researchers asked the patients about their fatigue symptoms, depression symptoms, use of antidepressants and social support networks.

Spire’s team found that people with more symptoms of depression had worse fatigue. Not surprisingly, therefore, depressed people taking antidepressants had less fatigue than depressed people not on antidepressants. People who weren’t depressed but were taking antidepressants also did better than nondepressed people who weren’t on antidepressants.

The authors conclude the screening for and effective management of both fatigue and depression can potentially improve quality of life for people with HIV and HCV.