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Expanding Access to Behavioral Health Care of People Living with HIV/AIDS

February 28, 2017
Author: Alex Keuroghlian, MD, MPH

National Center for Innovation in HIV Care

African American Man

The purpose of this brief is to describe recent changes in federal health policy that may increase behavioral health treatment access for PLWH. This brief will assist the staff of AIDS service organizations, community-based organizations, and HIV-focused health service organizations to optimize behavioral health treatment access for the vulnerable populations served.

Behavioral Health and PLWH

People living with HIV (PLWH) face chronic and pervasive stigma and discrimination. This results in stress that contributes to disproportionate prevalence of behavioral health problems, including depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, and substance use. PLWH who suffer from behavioral health problems often face the dual stigma of HIV and having co-occurring psychiatric diagnoses. PLWH have unique needs for integration of culturally-tailored behavioral health services into primary care, which can, in turn, improve engagement in HIV care, and lead to an increase in antiretroviral medication adherence.

PLWH encounter numerous barriers to behavioral health treatment. Medical mistrust, discrimination within the health care system, poor integration of behavioral health and primary care services, as well as inadequate insurance or lack of insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment have historically contributed to behavioral health care disparities among PLWH.


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