On 15 February, the European AIDS Treatment Group responded to the European Commission call for evidence in preparation for its new initiative for comprehensive, prevention-oriented approaches to mental health as a public health issue. The initiative will be launched later this year and is set to promote:
- good mental health and prevention of mental health problems,
- Early detection and screening of mental health problems
- Actions to further tackle psychosocial risks at work
- Support and improving access to treatment and care of mental health problems
- Improved quality of life
- Cross-cutting issue
EATG’s submission is based on EATG research and consultations carried out in 2020-2022. In accordance with findings from its work, EATG highlighted that people living with HIV in WHO Europe experience a higher burden of mental health issues than the general population that need to be addressed. Findings from EATG’s research and stakeholders’ consultations point to the following actions to be taken:
Healthcare system and community organisations:
- Raise awareness about mental health issues among people living with/affected by HIV. Long-term conditions negatively impact on mental well-being, which in turn is further affected by the experience of stigma and discrimination – even more so in marginalised or criminalised populations.
- Ensure referral from HIV care services to mental health support services where mental health support services in HIV care is not possible. Enhance dialogue between HIV specialists and mental health specialists to increase knowledge of existing needs, services. Where needed mental health services could refer a person to HIV care services.
- Options responding to different levels of demand (including self-help groups; peer support; group support; MH professionals) and as well as empowerment of patients in self-management of their mental health issues, when possible;
- Update policies and guidelines to reflect diverse needs, including possibilities for de-medicalized services;
- Differentiate cases where support requires pharmacological interventions and those where it does not and;
- Support research to generate evidence, to define programmatic requirements and,
- Formally acknowledge trained peer work in the field of mental health.
European and national level institutions, agencies and donors:
- Provide guidance on effective ways to implement MH support services as part of routine HIV care, including possible tools to be used for assessing mental health issues among people living with / affected by HIV.
- Develop region-specific guidance on how to adequately structure mental health support responses, including the multiple types of support services possible, and the levels at which they can be made available.
- Raise the profile of MH in general and engage in dialogue to include mental health within existing interventions and policies at the national and local levels,
- Provide funding for mental health responses, including for people living w/ affected by HIV.
- Research on the availability of mental health services, and their use, focusing on marginalised, criminalised, or underserved populations.
- Consider sub-regional specificities in MH and HIV agenda and further work implementation.
Please find attached the call and EATG’s response.