Understanding the experience and manifestation of depression in people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa

L. Andersen, A. Kagee, C. O'Cleirigh, S. Safren, J. Joska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Understanding the experience of depression in people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWH) could aid in the detection and treatment of the disorder. Yet, there is limited knowledge of the subjective experience of depression amongst PLWH in low- and middle-income countries despite high rates of this disorder in this population. In the current study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with depressed adults living with HIV attending a primary infectious disease clinic in South Africa. Interview transcripts were thematically analyzed. The construct of depression was consistent with DSM-IV criteria; however, the symptom presentation was distinctive. Somatic symptoms were most prominent in participants' initial presentations because participants perceived them as medically relevant. Affective, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms were not readily reported as participants did not perceive these symptoms as pertinent to their medical treatment. We identified several idioms of distress that could assist in screening for depression in this population. A valid, contextually developed screener for depression in PLWH awaits further investigation. Such a measure could play a key role in formulating a logistically feasible method of detection and treatment for depression in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-62
Number of pages4
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • AIDS
  • Depression
  • HIV
  • Low- and middle-income countries
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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