Symptoms of common mental disorders and adherence to antiretroviral therapy among adults living with HIV in rural Zimbabwe: a cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 7;11(7):e049824. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049824.


Objectives: To examine the proportion of people living with HIV who screen positive for common mental disorders (CMD) and the associations between CMD and self-reported adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Setting: Sixteen government-funded health facilities in the rural Bikita district of Zimbabwe.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Participants: HIV-positive non-pregnant adults, aged 18 years or older, who lived in Bikita district and had received ART for at least 6 months.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome was the proportion of participants screening positive for CMD defined as a Shona Symptoms Questionnaire score of 9 or greater. Secondary outcomes were the proportion of participants reporting suicidal ideation, perceptual symptoms and suboptimal ART adherence and adjusted prevalence ratios (aPR) for factors associated with CMD, suicidal ideation, perceptual symptoms and suboptimal ART adherence.

Results: Out of 3480 adults, 18.8% (95% CI 14.8% to 23.7%) screened positive for CMD, 2.7% (95% CI 1.5% to 4.7%) reported suicidal ideations, and 1.5% (95% CI 0.9% to 2.6%) reported perceptual symptoms. Positive CMD screens were more common in women (aPR 1.67, 95% CI 1.19 to 2.35) than in men and were more common in adults aged 40-49 years (aPR 1.47, 95% CI 1.16 to 1.85) or aged 50-59 years (aPR 1.51, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.17) than in those 60 years or older. Positive CMD screen was associated with suboptimal adherence (aPR 1.53; 95% CI 1.37 to 1.70).

Conclusions: A substantial proportion of people living with HIV in rural Zimbabwe are affected by CMD. There is a need to integrate mental health services and HIV programmes in rural Zimbabwe.

Trial registration number: NCT03704805.

Keywords: HIV & AIDS; epidemiology; mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population
  • Zimbabwe / epidemiology

Associated data