HIV diagnosis may be a source of psychological distress. Late initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and treatment-related beliefs may intensify psychological distress among those recently diagnosed. This analysis describes the prevalence of psychological distress among people living with HIV (PLWH) and examines the association of recent HIV diagnosis, late ART initiation and treatment-related beliefs with psychological distress. The sample includes 1175 PLWH aged 18 or older initiating ART at six HIV clinics in Ethiopia. Psychological distress was assessed with Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. Scores ≥ 29 were categorized as severe psychological distress. Individuals who received their first HIV diagnosis in the past 90 days were categorized as recently diagnosed. Multivariable logistic regression modeled the association of recent diagnosis, late ART initiation and treatment-related beliefs on severe psychological distress, controlling for age, sex, education, area of residence, relationship status, and health facility. Among respondents, 29.5% reported severe psychological distress, 46.6% were recently diagnosed and 31.0% initiated ART late. In multivariable models, relative to those who did not initiate ART late and had longer time since diagnosis, odds of severe psychological distress was significantly greater among those with recent diagnosis and late ART initiation (adjusted OR [aOR]: 1.9 [95% CI 1.4, 2.8]). Treatment-related beliefs were not associated with severe psychological distress in multivariable models. Severe psychological distress was highly prevalent, particularly among those who were recently diagnosed and initiated ART late. Greater understanding of the relationship between psychological distress, recent diagnosis, and late ART initiation can inform interventions to reduce psychological distress among this population. Mental health screening and interventions should be incorporated into routine HIV clinical care from diagnosis through treatment.
Keywords: ART; Ethiopia; HIV; diagnosis; mental health; treatment.