New Data Helps Improve Treatment for HIV-Positive African Children

There have been great advances in the treatment of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. But in some areas of the world, HIV treatment is still vastly lacking. Africa is one such area. Rates of HIV in Africa continue to rise, despite the increasing efforts of health organizations.

One reason for this is the lack of adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) by young people. Adolescents with HIV face numerous challenges on top of the obvious physical ones associated with HIV. They also must address discrimination, stigma, peer influences, safe sexual practices, body image, and personal identity issues in the midst of dealing with the illness itself. Adherence to ART is critical for optimal health and survival and, therefore, efforts to increase ART adherence through psychosocial interventions have been stepped up in Africa.

Africaid is a program designed to maximize adherence and provide psychosocial support to children with HIV. Webster Mavhu of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences in Africa recently conducted an extensive exploration into the adherence of ART and perception of services provided by Africaid from a sample of caregivers, medical professionals, and HIV-positive teenage participants.

Using data from focus groups, questionnaires, interviews, and other data, Mavhu found that teens in the study had poor ART adherence rates. Their levels of psychological well-being were low and more than 60% were potentially at risk for developing depression. Some of the biggest challenges the children reported were stigma, discrimination, and abuse.

Overall, Africaid did provide social support through group therapy, but did little to help children cope with life on a daily basis. Additionally, caregivers of the children cited lack of resources and education needed to help their HIV-positive children. Although the Africaid program is a step in the right direction, these results show that more needs to be done to meet the needs of HIV children and their caregivers in Africa.

As a result of this study, positive changes were made. Mavhu said, “The findings contributed to the enhancement of Africaid’s existing programme of support to better promote psychological well-being and ART adherence.” Mavhu and others hope that additional work in this area can strengthen Africaid and other programs, and potentially decrease the growing epidemic of HIV in Africa and other countries with high rates of illness.

Mavhu, W., Berwick, J., Chirawu, P., Makamba, M., Copas, A., et al. (2013). Enhancing psychosocial support for HIV positive adolescents in Harare, Zimbabwe. PLoS ONE 8(7): e70254. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070254

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  • Tom


    August 12th, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    I just can’t help but feel like so much of this is sue to lack of education about the disease. We have the people who care, we have the drugs, we even have the money to ensure that those who need the medications have them available. But what we don’t have is that cultural mindset to break through and teach the children of today’s generation just how important it is to stay on their medications and to teach them in a way that is meaningful to them how to NOT continue to spread the disease. The batlle against HIV has always been one of stopping future cases is their tracks. But when it is one or two people battling against the mindset of an entire country, and entire generation, how could you ever hope to be a success?

  • lawry


    August 13th, 2013 at 4:21 AM

    There is so much need in this part of the world, and sometimes sadly, no matter how much money you throw at a situation it isn’t going to resolve the issues at hand.

    the real problems are numerous. Of course there is the lack of education about safe sex and how to prevent the disease. But then I think that you go a little depper and there is this feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Some may wonder why they should change their behavior when this is ultimately not going to change their fate. Pretty dismal view of life, I know that, and I hope that these feelings are not pervasive. But I can’t hep but feel like there will always be those people who feel very powerless and who aren’t all that interested in how their actions play a role in the lives of others.

  • jenny


    August 13th, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    discrimination and abuse can often render a person incapable of fighting his illness..its sad that this is happening and especially to children,children that most need support.hopefully these results will shake things up and push governments and other agencies to take some real observe that HIV rates are increasing in Africa when they are decreasing elsewhere should be a wake up call in itself.

  • Grace


    August 14th, 2013 at 4:26 AM

    The social stigma still associated with HIV is also great. To have to live with this as an HIV positive chuld must be quite difficult.

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