Mental Health Care Vital in HIV Treatment – Doctoral Thesis Finding
The importance of mental health care being integrated into HIV services at primary health care settings and the stigma attached to mental illness were the focus of a doctoral thesis by UKZN Nursing Mental Health lecturer, Dr Winnie Baphumelele Cele.
Cele was awarded a PhD in Mental Health Nursing for the study titled: Analysing the Implementation of National Mental Health Policy Framework on the Integration of Mental Health into HIV Services in Selected Primary Health Care Settings in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Supervised by Dr Euphemia Mbali Mhlongo, Cele highlighted the importance of mental health care being integrated into HIV services at primary health care settings to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.
Cele’s work investigated the extent to which the national Mental Health Policy Framework had been implemented in various institutions, with a focus on the integration of mental health care into HIV services in selected primary health care settings.
‘The findings were used to develop a model that would in theory, facilitate the implementation of the policy framework and the integration of mental health care into HIV services at primary health care level,’ she said.
‘Mental health care is complicated and more so when it co-occurs with another illness such as HIV which carries its own complexities. Mental health cannot be treated in isolation from other illnesses. It is therefore essential for mental health and HIV services to be integrated.’
Integrating mental health care into medical services at primary health care level could also curb the stigma associated with the treatment of mental disorders. ‘This can be achieved by task-sharing mental health care services among primary care workers, leading to improved access to specialist mental care in the face of limited resources.
‘Health workers’ perceptions of the treatment of co-morbid mental health conditions and HIV infection can be improved through the adoption of a pragmatic model that can be sustained over time,’ said Cele. ‘Such models should address the educational needs of health care professionals and their negative mind-set and fears about the integration of mental health into HIV services at the primary health care level.’
According to Cele, numerous studies have shown that collaboration is an important factor in the development of policies. She said new policies should be introduced to the staff who are expected to implement them.
Moreover, ‘more staff should be appointed in order to reduce the mental health patient workload and institutions should establish multi-disciplinary teams to provide people-centred holistic care,’ said Cele.
Cele obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, Degree in Nursing Education, Degree in Nursing Management and Psychology at the University of Zululand and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Nursing at UKZN.
She recently shared her findings at the KZN Mental Health Advocacy group in partnership with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. She has also shared her findings in 2018 at the AFREhealth symposium at the Durban ICC and her findings have been shared again at an international conference held in Dubai last year.
Words: Nombuso Dlamini
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan