By Samantha Bushman
One UW student wants to treat not only HIV, but also the web of mental health issues that so often accompany it.
Christopher Kemp, a third year PhD student in the department of Global Health, was awarded a grant by the National Institute of Health to study the role nurses play in reporting those who are suspected to have mental health problems for further treatment. As a former Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, he holds a unique perspective on the issue.
“The goal is first, from a human rights perspective, to provide mental health services where there are none,” Kemp said.
His new study aims at finding a better way to treat the mental health issues of HIV positive in rural South Africa. About 19 percent of South Africans are HIV positive, and 14 to 30 percent of those live with mental health issues. Mental disorders and other health issues like HIV often go hand in hand, so to treat one, you must treat the other as well. After interviewing nurses and collecting data on their preparedness to administer mental health treatment, Kemp hopes to attain information about how pre-existing programs can be altered and new programs enacted that ensure proper care is being given.
“Depressive symptoms interfere with taking medications, going to doctor’s appointments, participating in life,” principal investigator and mentor Deepa Rao said. “Treating depression in the same setting where HIV and other diseases are treated can improve health across conditions.”