Suicide Risk in Persons with HIV/AIDS in South Korea: a Partial Test of the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide

Eun Jung Shim, Sun Hee Lee, Nam Joong Kim, Eu Suk Kim, Ji Hwan Bang, Bo Kyung Sohn, Hye Youn Park, Kyung Lak Son, Heesung Hwang, Kwang Min Lee, Bong Jin Hahm

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Purpose: The high disease burden associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is linked to the elevated suicide risk in this population. Informed by the interpersonal theory of suicide, this study examined how and under which conditions depression is related to suicide risk in people living with HIV/AIDS. Methods: A total of 202 outpatients with HIV/AIDS participated in a cross-sectional and multi-center survey involving four university hospitals in South Korea. This self-reported survey included the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire, and Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview suicidality module. Results: Participants’ mean age was 48.6 (SD = 13.4) and the majority was male (89.1%). The proportions of those at high, medium, and low suicide risk were 18.5%, 20%, and 15.4%, respectively. Depression was associated with suicide risk directly and indirectly by increasing perceived burdensomeness (PB) and the indirect effect of depression on suicide risk mediated by PB was contingent on the level of thwarted belongingness (TB). PB was associated with suicide risk even after controlling for depression, suggesting its independent effect on suicide risk. Conclusions: PB and TB are potential mechanisms through which depression is associated with suicide risk, supporting the applicability of the interpersonal theory of suicide to understanding a complex interplay of risk factors in people with HIV/AIDS. Moreover, given the independent association of PB with suicide risk, as well as a protective effect of TB in suicide risk, monitoring and management of these factors should be included in the care of people with HIV/AIDS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-49
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • Depression
  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • Perceived burdensomeness
  • Suicide
  • Thwarted belongingness

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