Having dabbled with the condition myself, I was curious about the links between depression and stigma. So I poked around on the net looking for research on it. There is in fact quite a bit there. But as someone who didn’t even know that the word “construct” was also a noun until my forays in to research, it’s hard going for this wannabe social scientist. With apologies to the Barry Adams of this world, I’m not good at gobbledegook
Anyway, my brush with clinical depression a few years back is far from unique. Apparently 55% of us people living with HIV have had - or are having - depression. Reminds me of my first time in a psychiatrist’s waiting room. It’s a weird place to be for first-timers, not a bit like that one in the Bob Newhart show. And so this newbie to the wonderful world of mental health issues had a bad case of not feeling like I belonged there. Frankly I thought everyone else in the waiting room was a nut job - except for me, the normal one, sent here by mistake by my regular doctor. Proving, of course, that the popular perception of people with mental health issues is not kind. They have their own brand of stigma to deal with, in fact.
As it happens I had a good psych doctor, and so a combination of pills and cognitive behavioural therapy set me as straight as this gay boy could ever be. Well, actually, I did have a relapse, but now I’m “clean”. I think.
Anyway, here’s what I think the research on all this says. People living with HIV who reported feeling highly stigmatized also experienced significantly more symptoms of depression. One reports says that the debilitating impact of HIV-stigma needs to be more fully acknowledged. i.e. that it’s bad for your health. (Seems to me there may be a bit of cause vs. effect argument to be made here, though. In other words, is the depression the result of heightened stigma, or is the heightened stigma the result of the one-two punch of HIV AND mental illness?)
There is also some research out there on the impact of depression on risk taking. As a poz guy, though, my experience is that depression - and the pills that go with it - can have a disastrous effect on one’s libido, not to mention erections. So that disclosure and/or risk taking can be a complete non-issue when you’re battling the Big D. On the other hand, one hears that there are in fact some links between depression and risky behaviour. I don’t know.
As I’m sure you can tell, this isn’t really my area of expertise. (Exactly what is, I’m still trying to discover.) But I’m mighty interested in hearing from anyone who knows anything about this, or has had experience with depression, either poz or neg, and is perhaps even comfortable commenting on how it has impacted their sexual health.