Within the framework of the United Nation Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), HIV/AIDS represent a public health emergency of international concern. Given the magnitude of the pandemic especially in low- and middle-income countries, any efforts to combat it require a multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approach.
The relation and interaction between HIV/AIDS and mental health has been widely documented. However, mental health disorders in low- and middle-income countries do not attract global health policy attention. Although more than 80% of the global population lives in low- and middle-income countries, just 6% of the research on mental health has been documented in these countries.
Furthermore, a significant number of HIV infected people have or develop mental health problems, and this often adversely impacts on HIV/AIDS treatment outcome and adherence. Despite that over 90% of the burden of HIV/AIDS is in developing countries, very little research emerges in the area of HIV/AIDS and mental health for the afflicted population in that part of the world.
The social and economic consequences of HIV/AIDS and mental health are not limited only to the infected people, but impact partner stability, family members, caregivers, friends, neighbours and the community at large. Costs involved in mitigating HIV/AIDS related problems and updated information on household socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS are very limited despite their importance in guiding key policy decisions. It is imperative to include mental health interventions in HIV/AIDS initiatives as promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As a “think tank” the United Nations University – International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH)’s main mission is to promote policy relevant research, capacity development and dissemination of knowledge. In this regard, UNU-IIGH is aiming to bring together a selected group of stakeholders including scientists, researchers, policy makers, civil society representatives, frontline workers, UN agencies, NGOs in order to share significant findings, to promote collaboration and coordination and to transfer experiences from a multidisciplinary approach on the issue of socio-economic and mental health burden of HIV/AIDS for the first time in Malaysia.
The seminar, organized at UNU-IIGH on 21-22 November 2011, offered an opportunity to foster a productive discussion and interaction between speakers and participants. The seminar addressed gaps in policies and promote the integration of primary mental health care approach into HIV/AIDS programmes to overcome current and future challenges.