BACKGROUND: Mental health (MH) comorbidities reduce retention in care for persons living with HIV (PLWH) and are associated with poor health outcomes. Optimizing retention in primary care is vital, as poor retention is associated with delayed receipt of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, ARV non-adherence, and poor health outcomes, including failure to suppress viral load, decreased CD4 counts, and clinically significant ARV drug resistance. We hypothesized that MH service utilization would be associated with improved retention in care for patients with HIV and MH comorbidities. METHODS: This is a retrospective analysis of PLWH initiating outpatient HIV health care at a university-affiliated HIV clinic between January 2007 and December 2013. We examined the association between MH service utilization and retention in care, the outcome of interest, using univariate and multivariable logistic regression. RESULTS: Overall, 627 (84.4%) out of 743 patients were retained in care using the Health Resources & Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau (HRSA/HAB) metric. A multivariable model adjusted for several sociodemographic factors, MH comorbidities, and MH service utilization. The results suggest that lack of health insurance (public ORadj = 0.3, p < 0.01; no insurance ORadj = 0.4, p < 0.01) and ≥ 3 MH comorbidities (ORadj = 0.3, P = 0.01) were associated with decreased retention in care. Conversely, older age (> 45 years, ORadj. = 1.6, p = 0.14) and ≥ 3 MH service utilization visits (ORadj. = 6.8, p < 0.01) were associated with increased retention in care. CONCLUSIONS: Even in the absence of documented MH comorbidities, improved retention in care was observed with increasing MH service utilization. In order to achieve the US-based National HIV/AIDS Strategy goal of 90% retention in care for PLWH, MH service utilization should be considered along with other evidence-based interventions to improve retention for PLWH newly engaged in care.