Mental Illness Raises Risk of HIV Infection

Michael B. Blank, Interview with:
Michael B. Blank, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309 What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Blank:  We found that people in treatment for mental illnesses in inpatient and outpatient settings in Philadelphia and Baltimore were about times as likely to be infected with HIV as the general population in those cities and about 16 times as likely to be HIV infected as the general population of the US.  We also found that severity of psychiatric symptoms increased the likelihood of infection. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Blank: We found the same patterns of risk related to substance use and sex with men who have sex with men was true for people with mental illness as in the general population. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Blank: We suggest that routine HIV testing should be conducted in all mental health clinics in accordance with CDC and IOM guidelines. At the very least I hope that mental health professionals learn that collectively, the people they serve are at higher risk for HIV and other infectious diseases.  I also hope that it adds to the growing evidence that mental health centers can serve as “health homes” for their consumers, and incorporate simple point-of-care testing not just for HIV, but also for other common conditions that disproportionately affect persons with mental illness such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity and the like. Depending on the level of expertise available in a particular clinic, they can either refer out or provide integrated care in-house.  In either case, they can also reinforce adherence to treatment regimens for chronic co-occurring conditions. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Blank: It is important to conduct controlled studies of the effectiveness of different treatments for people with complex co-occurring conditions such as HIV and mental illness.  Cost-effectiveness information is also important in order to inform health policy moving forward.


A Multisite Study of the Prevalence of HIV With Rapid Testing in Mental Health Settings

Michael B. Blank, Seth S. Himelhoch, Alexandra B. Balaji, David S. Metzger, Lisa B. Dixon, Charles E. Rose, Emeka Oraka, Annet Davis-Vogel, William W. Thompson, and James D. Heffelfinger.  (2014). A Multisite Study of the Prevalence of HIV With Rapid Testing in Mental Health Settings. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.

doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.30163



Last Updated on April 11, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD