Perception of HIV physicians in Spain towards diagnosis and management of neuropsychiatric comorbidities in people with HIV
Objectives: Despite the importance of neuropsychiatric comorbidities (NPCs) in people with HIV, the degree of physician compliance with recommendations for diagnosis and management is unknown. This study assessed the perceptions, knowledge, skills, and attitudes of physicians regarding the diagnosis and management of NPCs in people with HIV in hospital settings in Spain.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional study including non-psychiatrist HIV specialist physicians responsible for antiretroviral therapy (ART) prescription and clinical care of ≥50 people with HIV/month, who completed an online survey of 34 questions.
Results: The 115 physicians who completed the survey (totally) agreed that assessing mental health was relevant (97.4%) and that NPCs were underdiagnosed (76.6%) and were very/fairly sensitized (67.8%). However, they reported receiving little/no training on the detection of NPCs (64.3%). Physicians considered that patients underreported NPCs (53.9%) and that alcohol (94.8%), recreational substances (97.4%), and tobacco consumption (95.6%) were (very) relevant.
Physicians agreed that NPCs were difficult to identify (52.2%) and that few tools were available (53.0%) and failed to use questionnaires (79.1%) and follow guidelines (77.4%) for the detection of NPCs. The main reasons precluding appropriate diagnosis and evaluation were lack of proactive attitudes and specific training and limited visit time. Upon detection of NPCs, physicians referred patients to the in-house psychiatry/psychology centre (61.7%), adjusted ART to minimize interactions (96.5%), and managed NPCs in conjunction with mental health professionals (71.3%).
Conclusions: Physicians in hospital settings in Spain were aware of the relevance of NPC diagnosis and their underdiagnosis. However, they still failed to routinely evaluate NPCs, follow guideline recommendations, and use questionnaires, highlighting opportunities for improved NPC detection and management in people with HIV.