DSM-IV-defined common mental disorders: Association with HIV testing, HIV-related fears, perceived risk and preventive behaviours among South African adults

Landon Myer, Dan J Stein, Allen Herman, Soraya Seedat, Hashim Moomal, David R Williams


There are few reports on how common mental disorders may be associated with HIV-related perceptions and behaviours from South Africa.

Between 2002 and 2004, 4351 South African adults were interviewed. Psychiatric diagnoses of depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders were based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition (DSM-IV). HIV related fears, perceived risk and behaviour change were measured using multi-item scales. We analysed forms of behaviour change that were appropriate for risk reduction (such as changes in sexual behaviour) separately from behaviour changes that were inappropriate to prevent HIV (such as care over things touched or avoiding certain social situations).

The presence of any DSM-IV-defined disorder during the previous 12 months was associated with previous HIV testing, increased HIV-related fears, and high levels of perceived risk of HIV. There were no associations between depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders and appropriate forms of behaviour change for HIV risk reduction. However individuals with an anxiety or depressive disorder were more likely to report inappropriate forms of behaviour change. For example, individuals with any depressive and/or anxiety disorders were 1.57 and 1.47 times more likely, respectively, to report avoiding certain social situations to prevent HIV/AIDS compared to those without such disorders (p<0.01 for both associations).

The lack of appropriate forms of behaviour change to prevent HIV transmission, despite increased levels of HIV-related fear and perceived risk, underscore the need for HIV risk reduction interventions for individuals living with common mental disorders in South Africa.

Authors' affiliations

Landon Myer, University of Cape Town

Dan J Stein, University of Cape Town

Allen Herman,

Soraya Seedat,

Hashim Moomal,

David R Williams,

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Mental health; HIV/AIDS; public health; stigma

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2009;99(5):396.

Article History

Date submitted: 2008-10-29
Date published: 2009-05-11

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