Rates and risk factors for suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide deaths in persons with HIV: A systematic review and meta-analysis


BACKGROUND: People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) must contend with a significant burden of disease. However, current studies of this demographic have yielded wide variations in the incidence of suicidality (defined as suicidal ideation, suicide attempt and suicide deaths). AIMS: This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to assess the lifetime incidence and prevalence of suicidality in PLWHA. METHODS: Publications were identified from PubMed (MEDLINE), SCOPUS, OVID (MEDLINE), Joanna Briggs Institute EBP and Cochrane Library databases (from inception to before 1 February 2020). The search strategy included a combination of Medical Subject Headings associated with suicide and HIV. Researchers independently screened records, extracted outcome measures and assessed study quality. Data were pooled using a random-effects model. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses were conducted to explore the associated risk factors and to identify the sources of heterogeneity. Main outcomes were lifetime incidence of suicide completion and lifetime incidence and prevalence of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt. RESULTS: A total of 185 199 PLWHA were identified from 40 studies (12 cohorts, 27 cross-sectional and 1 nested case-control). The overall incidence of suicide completion in PLWHA was 10.2/1000 persons (95%CI: 4.5 to 23.1), translating to 100-fold higher suicide deaths than the global general population rate of 0.11/1000 persons. The lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts was 158.3/1000 persons (95%CI: 106.9 to 228.2) and of suicidal ideation was 228.3/1000 persons (95%CI: 150.8 to 330.1). Meta-regression revealed that for every 10-percentage point increase in the proportion of people living with HIV with advanced disease (AIDS), the risk of suicide completion increased by 34 per 1000 persons. The quality of evidence by Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations for the suicide deaths was graded as ‘moderate’ quality. CONCLUSIONS: The risk of suicide death is 100-fold higher in people living with HIV than in the general population. Lifetime incidence of suicidal ideation and attempts are substantially high. Suicide risk assessments should be a priority in PLWHA, especially for those with more advanced disease.


Pelton M, Ciarletta M, Wisnousky H, Lazzara N, Manglani M, Ba DM, Chinchillli VM, Du P, Ssentongo AE, Ssentongo P




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Mental Health
    • Depression
    • Psychiatric disorders


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