This paper reviews the literature on various mental health problems and their impact on adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Depression, anxiety disorders, and disorders related to substance abuse were identified as key role-players influencing adherence. The severity of symptoms related to these disorders was found to be inversely related to ART adherence, with the possible exception of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD was found to have both positive and negative implications for adherence, with severity of symptoms ranging from health-protective concern to disabling distress. Possible solutions aimed at addressing the adverse effects of mental health problems on adherence are discussed. Routine screening in ART settings is suggested in settings where follow-up of positive screen scores are possible, along with the necessary interventions to resolve the disorder of concern. Suggested interventions include utilising psychotherapeutic treatment, both in isolation and in conjunction with medication, to address mental health problems. Furthermore, finding effective ways of marshalling social support is recommended for ensuring optimal adherence, and possibly mitigating the adverse effects of mental health problems. Further research is needed to find feasible ways of identifying, assessing and treating patients with mental health problems in resource-constrained settings where HIV prevalence is highest.
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