HIV testing: missed opportunity for suicide counseling?

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  • Nearly 1 in 4 people presenting for HIV testing reported suicidal thoughts in the last 2 wk.
  • Depression, anxiety, trauma-related disorders, and alcohol abuse were associated with suicidal ideation, but demographics and economics were not.

Why this matters                                                                             

  • Depression is associated with worsened outcomes in people living with HIV.

Key results

  • 2% of people presenting for HIV testing were diagnosed with HIV.
  • 24% of participants reported suicidal ideation in ≤2 wk.
  • 5.2% reported having attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
  • 2.8% reported having attempted suicide/suicide plans during previous 2 wk.
  • Economic and demographic factors were not associated with suicidal ideation.
  • Mental disorders were: depressive disorder carried an OR of 5.1 of suicidal ideation; generalized anxiety was associated with an OR of 7, trauma and stress-related disorders were associated with an OR of 4.7, followed by alcohol use disorder, at an OR of 2.8.

Study design

  • Cross-sectional study of 500 people presenting for HIV testing in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Funding: South Africa National Research Foundation.


  • Self-reported suicidal ideation, mental health symptoms.
  • Participants were selected by convenience sampling.
  • Study did not investigate cumulative effect of multiple mental health disorders or drug use disorders aside from alcohol use.