Most teenagers with HIV live in Southern Africa and many of them suffer from depression. Research on this issue is still scarce, yet urgently needed to help adolescents overcome their mental health problems and to improve their quality of life.
By Maria Loades*
We know that depression is particularly common in people with HIV. Those who are depressed tend to have a poorer quality of life, are not as reliable at taking their medication, and are more likely to pass HIV on to others. Although most teenagers with HIV live in Southern Africa, research has largely focused on adults from North America and Europe, and may not apply directly to those who live in the very different context of low and middle income countries.
With the aim of filling this knowledge gap, a group of researchers from England and South Africa performed a systematic review to find all research studies that investigated either risk factors for developing depression and/or treatments for depression, with a specific focus on young people with HIV in Southern Africa. Their findings were recently published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health.
They found twelve studies (involving a total of 3,573 HIV-infected teens), which examined risk factors. According to the researchers, the quality of the research was variable and thus limited the conclusions they were able to draw. However, in these studies they found evidence that female gender, older age, food insecurity, exposure to abuse, and internalised stigma are risk factors for depression. On the other hand, disclosing one’s HIV status, satisfaction with relationships, and social support were shown to be protective factors and could therefore be promising targets for interventions.
The researchers found only one study that had specifically set out to treat depression in teenagers with HIV in Southern Africa. The study used a family-based intervention, delivered by lay counsellors and overseen by a psychologist. However, the treatment trialled in this study did not successfully reduce depression.
The researchers conclude that “there is an urgent need for more research into depression in teens with HIV in Southern Africa, and particularly a need for low-cost, large scale interventions to be developed and trialled.”
Read the original article here:
Cara Haines, Maria Loades, Bronwynè Coetzee, Nina Higson-Sweeney: Which HIV-infected youth are at risk of developing depression and what treatments help? A systematic review focusing on Southern Africa, 06.08.2019.
*Dr Loades is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship, DRF-2016-09-021). This report is independent research. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.