Side Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) Are Associated with Depression in Chinese Individuals with HIV: A Mixed Methods Study




This study examined experiences of antiretroviral therapy (ART) side effects among Chinese people living with HIV/AIDS and evaluating their relationship with depressive mood.


Chinese individuals with HIV who had severe ART side effect symptoms will experience more depression compare to individuals who had less side effect symptoms from ART.


A national ART is now widely available in China. This growing availability of ART has changed the prospect of HIV/AIDS management. Although some patients with HIV can overcome initial side effects, without appropriate treatments, side effects could lead to challenging situations, including decreasing adherence and quality of life.


This mixed methods study was conducted from July 2005 to March 2008 at Beijing's Ditan Hospital. Inclusion criteria were individuals who were HIV positive, Mandarin-speaking, at least 18 years old, and willing to and physically capable of participating.


In-depth interviews were conducted in Mandarin with 29 individuals. Interviews took one hour and were conducted in a private office at the hospital. A quantitative survey was developed, tested, and administered to 120 individuals.


Common symptoms included digestive discomfort, pancreatitis skin issues, numbness, memory loss, nightmares, and dizziness. These side effects not only brought physical discomfort, but also interfered with everyday activities. Multiple regression analysis revealed that participatns who suffered from more severe side effects were more depressed after controlling for effects of social support, knowledge of the medications, and general health.


Antiretroviral therapy side effects are one of the reasons that Chinese individuals with HIV/AIDS delay or stop taking the medicine. The psychological and physical demands of coping with medication side effects can be overwhelming. Enhanced social support and educating patients with HIV/AIDS on up-to-date ART knowledge might enhance adherence. Self-management intervention should be developed and included in the ART initiation counseling and carefully followed thereafter.