Screening for psychiatric morbidity in a medical outpatient clinic for HIV infection: the need for a psychiatric presence

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1994;24(2):103-13. doi: 10.2190/URTC-AQVJ-N9KG-0RL4.


Objective: To ascertain the prevalence and type of psychiatric morbidity present in HIV infected patients presenting for the first time to a specialty HIV medical clinic. Also, to develop a way of screening for psychiatric cases in this setting using established self-report questionnaires.

Method: Fifty patients who presented consecutively for medical care at the Johns Hopkins Hospital General HIV Clinic participated in this study. These patients were first screened using the General Health Questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory and subsequently underwent a comprehensive neuropsychiatric evaluation.

Results: Fifty-four percent were found to suffer from a psychiatric disorder with an additional 22 percent from an active substance use disorder. These rates are one-and-one-half to two times higher than those reported from other medical clinics. The GHQ and BDI used together as screens could identify psychiatric "cases" with a sensitivity of 81 percent and a specificity of 61 percent, an efficacy similar to that found in other clinics.

Conclusions: Given the high prevalence of psychiatric disorders in HIV infected patients presenting for medical care, screening, evaluating, and treating for these disorders is crucial and should be pursued systematically. This is best done through the presence of a psychiatric team within HIV medical clinics rather than in affiliation with such clinics.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Patient Compliance
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychiatry*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology