Everyone experiences short periods of feeling sad or down at some time, but some people develop states of sadness, helplessness and the inability to enjoy things for long periods of time. These states are often accompanied by low energy, problems sleeping, eating or concentrating, and even feelings of wanting to commit suicide. This is known as depression.

Depression is common among people living with HIV. We are much more likely than the general population to develop depression. And, among people living with HIV, depression appears to be more common among women than men.

[After my diagnosis, I] became very depressed over the next year... If I had made contact with the AIDS service organization earlier, I might not have spiraled into such a deep depression.”

Depression limits our quality of life and can often affect our ability to care for our health, making it harder to take our anti-HIV drugs as prescribed and leading to problems with substance use and/or unsafe sex.

Many factors can contribute to depression, such as a family history of depression, experiences of loss, being socially isolated without the support of friends and family, certain medications taken by people living with HIV, or the consequences of prolonged use of street drugs.

Setting small goals can help when you’re depressed

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Bathe, brush your teeth, comb your hair and get dressed daily when you get out of bed.
  • If possible, leave the house and go out for a short walk every day.
  • Have short but frequent contact with good friends.
  • Engage in activities that you can start or stop easily, such as grocery shopping or some light exercise.
  • As much as possible, limit the amount of caffeine, alcohol and street drugs you consume.