People with HIV can benefit over the long-term from psychological counseling sessions conducted over the phone. This finding could lead to greater access to counseling services for those living in rural areas.

An estimated 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. HIV population lives in rural communities. This group is an estimated 30 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis of depression compared with HIV-positive people living in urban areas.

Publishing their findings in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers conducted a clinical trial in which 147 people living with HIV in rural areas of 28 states were randomized to receive nine weekly sessions of telephone-based interpersonal psychotherapy, or tele-IPT for short, or to be in a control group and receive standard care. The control group had access to community-based support systems for HIV-positive individuals.

A previously published study showed that, according to reports from the participants, the intervention was associated with a reduction in depression symptoms and interpersonal problems at the end of the nine weeks of therapy. The new analysis examined reports provided four and eight months after the end of treatment. Indeed, the benefits of the counseling sessions extended that far.

This is the first controlled trial to find that phone-based counseling provides long-term relief from depression for any clinical population, according to the study authors. The investigators now intend to work with AIDS service organizations and practitioners in rural areas to help provide access to tele-IPT to those people with HIV who may benefit from it.

To read the News Medical article, click here.

To read the study, click here.