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HIV testing among individuals with a severe mental illness: review, suggestions for research, and clinical implications

  • T. E. Senn (a1) and M. P. Carey (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 08 July 2008

The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is elevated among individuals with a severe mental illness (SMI). Because of the benefits of HIV testing, it is important for individuals with SMI to have routine access to testing. The goals of this review are: to summarize knowledge about HIV testing prevalence, correlates, and interventions among individuals with an SMI; to identify research needs; and to discuss clinical implications of the studies reviewed.


Literature searches were conducted using PsycINFO, PubMed, and Medline. Additional articles were obtained from reference lists of relevant articles.


Fewer than one-half of individuals with an SMI have been tested for HIV in the past year. Engaging in sex or drug risk behavior was the only consistent correlate of HIV testing. Interventions for promoting HIV testing among individuals with an SMI have not been well developed or evaluated.


Research on HIV testing among individuals with an SMI is needed. Mental health settings may be opportune venues for HIV testing, even though providers face ethical challenges when implementing testing programs in these settings.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: T. E. Senn, Center for Health and Behavior, 430 Huntington Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA. (Email:
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