RAYMOND, Maine — Mozambique, an east African nation, has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDs in the world. The nation also struggles financially, with 60% of the population living in poverty, according to 2019 data. The combined toll of HIV and poverty is harmful to one’s mental health, effectively creating a cycle of poverty and illness throughout the generations, an increasingly difficult cycle to break. Mental health treatment options have slowly been expanding in Mozambique. Expanding mental health services in Mozambique has recently included expansions in telehealth services, psychiatric training, and bringing mental health treatment services to rural and urban areas.
HIV/AIDs and Poverty in Mozambique
In Mozambique, HIV/AIDs impacts 13.5% of the population. Annually, around 40,000 Mozambicans die from HIV. HIV/AIDs can have detrimental economic impacts on a person. More often than not, HIV results in severe loss of income, especially in labor and agriculture-based nations, like Mozambique.
Poverty is more common in rural areas than urban areas, largely due to the reliance on agriculture and labor-based income. Labor-based income remains popular in rural Mozambique for many reasons, partially because it often does not require formal education. Many children quit school when a family member is diagnosed with HIV/AIDs and lose out on an education, thus heavily limiting their future earnings. Children are likely to quit school as a means of improving household earnings in the immediate sense, but the long-term effects can restrict one from ever escaping lower economic status.
In the long term, HIV/AIDs can negatively affect one’s mental health, as can living in poverty. In a country such as Mozambique, with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDs and poverty, many citizens struggle with their mental health, but there are few resources to turn to in times of need.
Mental Health Struggles in Mozambique
HIV/AIDs can be disastrous for one’s mental health, which is why expanding mental health services in Mozambique is critical. With HIV/AIDs, a person has a greater chance of developing mood or cognitive disorders. Depression is an incredibly common mental health challenge for individuals battling HIV/AIDs. HIV/AIDs can affect the nervous system and brain, as can medications used to treat the disease. The best way to manage one’s mental health and be supported, especially when living with HIV/AIDs, is to have a mental health care professional assist, but this is extremely difficult for Mozambicans.
In Mozambique, there are approximately 0.1 doctors for every 1,000 people, according to 2019 data. If the number of hospitals and doctors per person in Mozambique was not alarming enough, the number of mental health treatment facilities, professionals, and legislation in the works is even more lacking. There are fewer than 400 mental health professionals in the entire country.
There are no reported government expenditures for Mozambique’s mental health care providers and services. Also, no people or organizations working to ensure Mozambique’s mental health legislation is on par with international regulations and standards. For a nation with such a high level of poverty and HIV/AIDs prevalence, expanding mental health services in Mozambique could be one of the best ways to treat the ill Mozambicans.
Recent Expansions in Mozambique’s Mental Health Services
The latest expansion in mental health services in Mozambique includes training psychiatric technicians. Psychiatric technicians in Mozambique undergo 30 months of training. The trainees learn to recognize and treat mental health disorders plaguing their patients. The technicians learn approved medications and treatment options that they then offer Mozambicans in need. This expansion has allowed Mozambique to bring treatment to all 135 of the nation’s districts.
Mozambique’s mental health services are slowly spreading to the rural areas and are no longer solely concentrated in the urban districts. This change is happening gradually as the nation shifts away from intensive long-care facilities to long-term, repeated, community-based care. Care delivered in this fashion grants Mozambicans the opportunity to continue working, seek other medical treatment as needed and build a support system that exists outside the treatment facility. The expanding mental health services in Mozambique will assist those struggling with HIV/AIDs with primary physicians and other providers to enable them to continue working.
Changes in mental healthcare will help Mozambicans struggling financially to keep working or stay in school while seeking out the medical care they require, whether physical or mental. Such assistance will be immensely beneficial in decreasing the nation’s healthcare crisis and poverty rates.
– Clara Mulvihill