Social stigma attached to HIV infection is driving patients towards depression and suicide, according to a latest poll by Curofy- India's largest community of verified doctors.
People diagnosed with HIV or AIDS are three times more likely to commit suicide than general population.
Considering the bleak prognosis of HIV infection and AIDS, this is not surprising. Moreover, stigma, discrimination, and social isolation may also contribute to elevated suicide rates. Anxiety and depression are also common in HIV-infected patients.
‘HIV positive patients need psychiatric help because the social stigma and the fear of isolation drive patients towards suicide, depression, and other anxiety disorders.’
So, while some patients are scared of dying a painful death, some are scared of being isolated by the society. For others suicidal thoughts are a consequential side effect of antiretroviral treatment (ART).
When Curofy asked doctors what do they think is driving HIV positive patients towards suicide and depression, out of 1025 doctors who responded 802 or 78% said that it was the social stigma and the fear of isolation that is responsible.
Dr M Padmini, Intensivist at Shri Ramchandra Medical College, Chennai said, "With better ART techniques, the fatality of being HIV positive has gone down considerably. It is the social stigma and the fear of isolation that drive patients towards suicide and depression and other anxiety disorders as well. These patients need psychiatric help. It's up to us to identify such cases and refer them to a psychiatrist. Also, as a society we need to have support groups that can educate the patient and their families about HIV and the life after that."
Dr Ketan Ranpariya, HIV/AIDS clinic, has been spearheading the campaign against HIV infection in Gujarat. Commenting on the social stigma he said, "The biggest problem in India is the lack of information in native languages. We need to make sure that people are educated about the disease. That is the only way we can tackle this situation. India is a very closed society culturally. It's only when we have open discussions among the different generations of a family that we can make them aware of the realities of HIV and remove the stigma."
About 198 doctors or 19% of doctors said that it was the fear of death making people go into depression whereas only 25 physicians or 2% of doctors who responded said that it was due to a side effect of the medication that patients take.
Commenting on this Nipun Goyal, co-founder Curofy said, "Stigmatising HIV infection is not only backward but wrong on many levels. We live in the 21st century where information is available to us at our fingertips. Still, the ignorance of our society is driving a part of our population towards suicide. We tried to shed some light on this issue through this poll."