Malawi Medical Journal

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HIV and mental illness in Malawi and the neuropsychiatric sequelae of efavirenz

Andrew Drury, Selena Gleadow Ware, Sheila Gilfillan, Jen Ahrens



Little is published about mental disorders in Malawi, specifically in relation to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and it’s treatment. Efavirenz is a medication commonly used as part of triple therapy for HIV treatment. Indeed, in 2013, Malawi introduced 5A with Efavirenz as part of it’s 1st line treatment for HIV. There exists some literature documenting known psychiatric side effects of Efavirenz, which include anxiety, mood changes, nightmares, psychosis and suicidal ideation. Little is known about what features are most common in the presentation and what factors in the patient and drug which may make this reaction more likely.


The aim of this commentary is to review the association between HIV and psychiatric disorder, and consider the neuropsychiatric side-effects of Efavirenz.


An evaluative literature review was completed by means of multiple electronic database search as well as an additional manual search to obtain published works identified through the electronic search. Search terms used were: Efavirenz, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Africa, Antiretroviral Therapy, Developing Countries, Malawi, Mental Disorders, Public Health, and Psychiatry.


This is an important area of study, as potentially large numbers of individuals with HIV are being placed on Efavirenz as first line treatment, yet 60% may experience some form of neuropsychiatric side effects.
AJOL African Journals Online