Distinguishing between Overlapping Somatic Symptoms of Depression and HIV Disease in People Living with HIV-AIDS

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HIV-AIDS is a prevalent medical diagnosis in U.S. cities, and symptoms of depression are common in persons with HIV infection. This study examined the effects of overlapping symptoms of HIV disease and somatic depression that can inflate scores on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Centers for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD). Results from 357 HIV positive men and women identified discrete subsets of depression symptoms that correspond with symptoms of HIV infection. Removing somatic subsets of depression symptoms improved the clinical utility of the BDI and CESD. Clearer symptom separation occurred with the BDI than the CESD, but the CESD may be more sensitive than the BDI to depression associated with progression of HIV disease. Findings suggest that depression scales that include somatic symptoms will inflate depression scores in people living with HIV infection, and available methods for distinguishing overlapping symptoms should be employed when assessing people living with HIV infection.

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