Factors Affecting Psychological Distress Among People Living With HIV / AIDS In Nigeria
The purpose of this study was to assess the factors affecting psychological distress among people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Data were gathered quantitatively with the use of a questionnaire. The data were gathered through distribution of questionnaires to 80 patients living with HIV. The response rate recorded for the study was 100%. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences software was used for the quantitative data analysis. The findings revealed that majority of respondents’ educational level were relatively low as most of them had either primary education, or secondary education with a very small percentage of them who had tertiary education.
The main mode of HIV/AIDS contraction was through sexual intercourse. Respondents who had experienced stigmatization and discrimination were more than those who had never experienced it. Stigmatization and discrimination mostly took the form of verbal assault, social stigma and job loss. Those who had experienced stigma and discrimination believed they were been stigmatized as result of the mentality people have about the disease that it is infectious and deadly. Stigmatization and discrimination had psychosocial implications on the respondents’ lives in numerous ways.
As a coping mechanism, respondents who had disclosed their status to people decided not to do further disclosure due to their experience of stigma upon their first disclosure. Others had decided not to disclose their status at all to prevent any form of stigma. The study recommends intensive education on the adverse psychosocial and general effects of stigmatizing and discriminating against HIV patients at all levels of society and intensification of voluntary counseling and testing for the public.
Table Of Content
- Title page
- Certification page
- Table of content
- 1.1 Background Of The Study
- 1.2 Statement Of The Problem
- 1.3 Objectives Of The Study
- 1.4 Research Questions
- 1.5 Significance Of The Study
2.0 Literature Review
- 2.1 Conceptual Review
- 2.2 Theoretical Review
- 2.3 Empirical Review
- 3.1 Research Design
- 3.2 Target Population
- 3.3 Sampling Technique And Sample Size
4.0 Results And Discussion
- 4.1 Results
5.0 Conclusion And Recommendation
- 5.1 Conclusion
- 5.2 Recommendations
1.1 Background Of The Study
People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are known to have great emotional needs and they require enormous support for coming to terms with dire affliction status. In addition to being a disease that is associated with a number of physical malfunctions and progressive discomforts like pain, shortness of breath, altered sexual functions and disfigurement, HIV/AIDS is associated with social stigma, it is highly stigmatized disease and this stigmatization can lead to a progression of other grievous psychological stressors such as anxiety, depression, fear, suicidal tendencies and so on, on the prospect of real and anticipated losses, worsening quality of life, fear of physical decline and death, coping with uncertainty, unemployment, homelessness, financial doldrums and the breakup of relationships. HIV/AIDS is a disaster which disrupts the family’s equilibrium by placing a dark and frightening cloud over their future; it is one of the most challenging public health problems of our country.
The HIV/AIDS infected patients can live healthy lives for longer if proper care and support is provided; their immune system can be strengthened by medical treatment, healthy food, regular exercise, rest, care and support. they need a compassionate multifaceted assistance and support which will enable them to find meaning to life, appraising their survival, taping new resources of psychic strength and courage. Some of the feelings the PLWHA experience include shock or anger at being positively diagnosed with HIV, fear over how the disease will progress, fear of isolation by family and friends and worries about infecting others. By bearing such a heavy burden, it is not surprising that depression is twice as common in PLWHA compared to general population (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Psychological problems have also been associated with HIV/AIDS risky behaviors, non adherence to HIV/AIDS related medicated and shortened survival rates (Farinpour et al., 2013; cook et al; 2014). The Psychological impact is disproportionately high on those with low socio-economic status as they might be faced with fear, anxiety and hopelessness on the uncertainty of future treatment affordability due to high cost of treatment and care. Globally, there are about 33.3 million PLWHA, in South East Asia region it has been estimated that about 3.5million people are living with HIV/AIDS, India has the world’s third highest total HIV burden, the prevalence of the infection is estimated to be about 0.34% of the population which translates to 2.3million people. In Nigeria, it is estimated that about 3.1million people are living with HIV, 2.8% adult HIV prevalence (15-49years), 210,000 new HIV infections, 150,000 AIDS- related deaths, 34% adults on retroviral treatment. Nigeria has the second largest HIV epidemic in the world, unprotected heterosexual sex accounts for 80% of new HIV infections in Nigeria with the majority of HIV infections occurring in affected populations such as sex workers.
A number of studies of patients who seek HIV/AIDS treatment or preventive health services have indicated that there is fairly high prevalence of psychological problems including depression, anxiety, and hostility (Kalichman, 2010; Cohen et al., 2012). Other research shows that psychological variables, such as depression and other mental health problems, drug or alcohol addictions, or any combination of these are most commonly prevalent among PLWHA (Moore et al., 2013; Wyatt et al., 2012; Whetten et al., 2016). It is estimated that up to 50% of PLWHA suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, and 13% have both mental illness and substance abuse issues (Bing et al., 2011). In the same by Bing and colleague also indicated that one-half of adults of PLWHA had symptoms of a psychiatric disorder; 19% had signs of substance abuse; 13% had co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness (Bing et al., 2011); and one-half of PLWHA had depression (Lesser, 2014).
The question of exactly how HIV/AIDS causes depression has sparked off a lot of controversies. Some of these support the “pre-infection psychopathology” argument, and feel that HIV/AIDS merely acts as a trigger and that only people with a vulnerability to depression before contracting HIV/AIDS become depressed. Others believe in the ability of the HIV/AIDS to create depressive syndromes (Desquilbet et al., 2012). The argument that HIV/AIDS creates depression in people who formerly had no history of the illness, seems more feasible. This can occur in a number of different ways, the first being the argument of social stress
. The stigmatization, alienation and breakdown of social support systems contribute greatly to the feelings of helplessness experienced by people affected with HIV/ AIDS. After the knowledge of their HIV positive status, many overreact and think that this is it; they are going to die very soon. It is mainly for this reason that many people may develop depression and lose interest in aspects of life that used to be important to them before knowledge of their HIV positive status.
In a study by Komiti and colleagues (2015) it has been indicated that psychological problems were among the most commonly observed health problems among PLWHA, affecting up to 20% of them and that the prevalence may have been even greater among substance users. Psychological problems have also been associated with HIV/AIDS risky behaviors, non- adherence to medications, and shortened survival rates (Farinpour et al., 2013; Cook et al., 2014). In addition, at times, depression is noted to be often linked with major causes of HIV transmission. These include alcohol consumption before sex, unprotected sexual contact, intravenous drug use, the sharing of HIV contaminated syringes and needles, and (Saylors and Daliparthy, 2015; Luber, 2012).
In a national probability sample of nearly 3,000 PLWHA assessed by Bing and colleagues (2011), they found out that that more than one- third of them screened positive for clinical depression and half of them reported use of illicit drugs. In another screening study carried out by Pence and colleagues (2017), they found relatively similar levels of depression of 35% in PLWHA that had screened positive.
Factors such as alcohol consumption before sex, unprotected sexual contact, intravenous drug use, and sharing HIV contaminated syringes needles are the major causes for HIV transmission (American Psychiatric Association, 2015). A lot of information about HIV/ AIDS prevention efforts and awareness campaigns against the spread of HIV infection is already abundantly available for PLWHA and for the general public. Despite the vast knowledge of how HIV is transmitted, many PLWHA still continue to engage in HIV/AIDS risky behaviors that also further places them to risks contracting secondary infections (e.g., syphilis, gonorrhea, herpesvirus-6) that may accelerate HIV/AIDS (Angelino, 2012).
1.2 Statement Of The Problem
This project will address the problems of psychological implication on PLWHA. Despite advances in HIV care, PLWHA face numerous psychological challenges, HIV stigma has been defined as the social discrediting and devaluation of HIV infected persons. PLWHA are sometimes abandoned by their families and are forced to live in destitution which may lead to psychological devastation, inadequate family and community support may lead to poor drug adherence and non-disclosure of their disease status thus arising complications. HIV/AIDS can lead to ostracism and social isolation, some children have a difficult time because of the interminable bullying and mockery at school and neighborhood which may lead to loneliness and low self esteem. Because of the stigma of HIV/AIDS, families are fearful of disclosing the diagnosis and have limited support systems from both inside and outside their family.
PLWHA are deprived of employment because employers and the society at large think that they will not be productive workers and this makes them to lose income leading to financial constraint. They are commonly faced with increased levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition due to loss of education and income caused by illness and increased expense of health care and transport. The risk of committing suicide is significantly high among PLWHA in other to avoid social stigma and discrimination faced by the society, being seen as different, incapable, unproductive and unpleasant through social isolation and inability to afford treatment.
It is estimated that up to 50% of PLWHA suffer mental illness and substance abuse issues (Bing et al; 2009). Depression is noted to be often linked with major causes of HIV transmission, these include; unprotected sexual contact, intravenous drug use, alcohol consumption before sex and the sharing of HIV contaminated syringes and needles (Saylors & Daliparthy, 2010; Luber, 2012). Despite the prevalence of psychological distress experienced by PLWHA, the available body of evidence indicates that depression is frequently under diagnosed and goes untreated on a large scale. Hence, the intent of this study is to investigate the factors affecting psychological distress among people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives Of The Study
The general objective of this study is to assess the factors affecting psychological distress among people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Specifically, this study seeks to achieve the following;
- To investigate the psychological problems associated with HIV patients
- To ascertain the causes and various forms of psychological problems (stigmatization and discrimination) against HIV patients
- To assess the coping mechanisms adopted by people living with HIV/AIDS to cope with social stigma and prevent depression, anxiety and substance abuse
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions were formulated in order to achieve the above mentioned objectives:
- What are the psychological problems associated with HIV patients attending antiretroviral therapy unit in Federal Medical Center Owerri?
- What are the causes and various forms of psychological problems (stigmatization and discrimination) against HIV patients attending antiretroviral therapy unit in Federal Medical Center Owerri?
- What are the coping mechanisms adopted by people living with HIV/AIDS to cope with social stigma and prevent depression, anxiety and substance abuse?
1.5 Significance Of The Study
A huge amount of research has been done around these psychological influences, yet it is felt that not all medical professionals and individuals working with HIV infected or the society they live in are aware of this body of knowledge. No one argues about the importance of following the numbers immune cell counts and levels of the virus in the blood nor should they but there is substantial and consistent evidence that depression, stressful life events and trauma accounts for some of the viability in HIV disease course.
It is necessary to investigate the biological and behavioral mediators of the relationships between psychological issues and the immune system also the types of intervention that could lessen the negative health impact of chronic depression and trauma.
Finally, the findings and recommendations based on the outcome of this study will inform policy makers in the study area and the country as a whole on the psychological implications of HIV and also serve as a reference source to future researchers contributing to the existing body of literature on the subject matter.
5.0 Conclusion And Recommendation
This study recognized that after all the efforts and resources invested by the government, NGOs and various stakeholders in educating and sensitizing the general public about HIV/AIDS and the need to support PLWHAs, they continue to face various forms of stigmatization and discrimination which in turn has psychological implications on these individuals resulting in adverse emotional and general health outcomes. The stigmatization and discrimination affected their lives and even affected their social status in society. Stigmatization and discrimination mostly took the forms of verbal assault, social stigma (such as family members refusing to share food, drink or have any relation with the person, marriage break down) and job loss. People perception about the disease as being infectious and deadly were considered the main causes of the stigmatization and discrimination in the FMC Owerri. Although some of the respondents had disclosed their status to someone, for fear of anticipated maltreatment from both close relatives and people in the community in general, some people as well as even married people had decided to remain silent about their status. This silence, to some extent, perpetuates spread of the disease since infected persons will behave as if everything is alright with them. The fear of dying, coupled with the fear of denial and being branded as immoral drove people to take all forms of decision among which were to isolate themselves and commit suicide. The study therefore concluded that more psychologically-inclined and social initiatives directed at addressing these causes will impact positively on reducing the level of stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and be of benefit to their psychological, social, emotional and general health.
The following recommendations are made based in the findings if the study;
- There is need for an increase in the level of public education and sensitization on the need for society to embrace patients with HIV instead of ignoring them. This involves family members, friends, relatives, and their immediate neighborhood. An improvement in acceptance rate will improve health outcomes and psychological stability for these individuals.
- The study also recommends for the collaboration of the government, NGOs, and stakeholders across all levels and status alongside the public to increase the awareness creation on the need for people to know their status. Furthermore, the disease must be communicated to the public as a sickness which can infect anyone and not only promiscuous people, hence the need for proper information and health promotion.
- Finally, non-governmental organizations and public support groups working in the areas should organize programmes that will empower patients with HIV to be able to accept their status and to gain inclusion into the society in terms of economic sustenance among others.
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