The Association Between HIV Stigma, Depression and Suicidal Thoughts Among Chinese MSM


As the HIV epidemic rises in China, Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) face various mental health difficulties, including suicide ideation, depression and stigma.

Depression can play a part between HIV-related stigmas and suicidal thoughts among HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM).

According to a recent study published in BMC Public Health, this statement was found to be true among Chinese HIV-positive MSM.

The global impact of HIV/AIDS has become a crisis affecting public health within economies, education and social structures.

As of 2022, those with HIV throughout the world reached approximately 38.4 million. In 2021 there were 1.5 million new HIV infections diagnosed.

In China, homosexual transmission represented 23.3% of new HIV infections reported in 2020. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention also found the prevalence of HIV infection among Chinese MSM surged from 6.9% in 2019 to 8% in 2020.

As the HIV epidemic rises in China, Chinese MSM face various mental health difficulties, including suicide thoughts, depression and stigma.

Researchers of the study in BMC aimed to assess the mechanisms between HIV-related stigma, depression and suicidal thoughts among MSM in China. They conducted a cross-sectional study which included 244 HIV-positive MSM who were monitored from December 2020 to March 2021.

The participants had to meet specific criteria to be eligible for the study, such as being 18 years or older, biologically male, testing positive for HIV, having a registered account with the dating app, Blued, and completing online informed consent.

Found was a significant and direct pathway of perceived HIV-related stigma on suicidal thoughts among participants. An indirect pathway was also discovered, indicating depression served as a mediator between HIV-related stigma and suicidal thoughts.

The partial mediating effect of depression sheds light on the mental health challenges faced by HIV-positive MSM in China.

Participants in the study experiencing suicidal thoughts reported heightened feelings of stress and blame from others due to their HIV status.

They also expressed a greater difficulty in social interactions, highlighting the impact of stigma on their daily lives.

In addition, concerns about how their HIV status might affect family members' employment and education rights were also more pronounced among those with suicidal thoughts.

Based on the data, authors of the study stress the importance of community support in addressing mental health issues among Chinese MSM. Community support can include strengthening the training of educators in mental health, for example.

Authors suggested integrating mental health interventions into the daily work of peer education could offer comfort, education and a sense of solidarity to individuals dealing with HIV-related stigma, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Despite these insights, the study did have its limitations such as potential social desirability bias and recall bias, which is essential in self-reported data.

The results also prevent building causal connections between the factors under scrutiny, authors claim.

Lastly, the study's participants were recruited from Blued, which raises questions about the broadness of findings to those who don't use the app.

Authors noted future research plans are necessary and include exploring the relationship between dating app use and mental health among this population.

Overall, the study highlights the urgent need for interventions addressing the mental health challenges of HIV-positive MSM in China.

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