U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Mental Illness and AIDS: An Overview

NCJ Number
State Health Reports on Mental Health, Alcoholism, and Drug Abuse Issue: 52 Dated: special issue (November 1989) Pages: 1-9
G T Bergman
Date Published
9 pages
The mental health system has at least six major concerns relating to HIV infection: implementation of infection control procedures within mental health facilities, sexual behavior within facilities, confidentiality, client placement in community settings or in the least restrictive environment, HIV testing, and management of recalcitrant patients.
As research into mental illness caused by HIV continues, facilities will be challenged to distinguish between mental illnesses resulting from HIV infection and those with other organic causes. The criteria for AIDS testing held by most institutions include clinical signs, high-risk patients, patients previously diagnosed as HIV-infected but needing confirmation, and harmful exposure within the facility. While voluntary testing is widespread, some facilities require mandatory screening of patients practicing high-risk behaviors, and only a few test routinely upon admission. More than 30 States have enacted new confidentiality laws to protect HIV test-related information; eight other States have strengthened the confidentiality clauses in existing statutes. The implications for mental health institutions of recent court decisions regarding the duty to protect identifiable victims of infection remain unclear. Although all States have authority to combat the transmission of dangerous communicable diseases, not all States have interpreted this power to cover AIDS transmission. Areas in patient management that require further study include educating mental illness patients about AIDS, using some forms of segregation, and coping with violent and sexual behavior in the facilities. Claims of liability against institutions may increase as knowledge of HIV infections and the relevant technologies evolve; the establishment of universal precautions should prevent many such claims. In order to provide services to patients, there needs to be a continuum of care, including outpatient, psychosocial, residential, rehabilitation, and support services. Finally, institutions need to provide ongoing staff training programs. 19 references.