A group-based mental health intervention for Tanzanian youth living with HIV Secondary analysis of a pilot trial

Hosaka, Kalei R.J. BA, MD Candidatea,∗; Mmbaga, Blandina T. MD, PhDb,c,d,e; Shayo, Aisa M. MD, MMEdb,d; Gallis, John A. MSce,f; Turner, Elizabeth L. PhDe,f; O’Donnell, Karen E. PhDg,h; Cunningham, Coleen K. MDi; Boshe, Judith MD, MMEdb,d; Dow, Dorothy E. MD, MSce,j
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Youth living with human immunodeficiency virus (YLWH) are vulnerable to incomplete adherence to antiretroviral therapy in the context of stigma, decreased hope for future, and mental health challenges. Despite these challenges, few mental health interventions have been developed to support YLWH. Previous randomized results from the Sauti ya Vijana (SYV; “The Voice of Youth”) mental health intervention were indicative of the intervention's benefits in promoting virologic suppression.


SYV is a group-based mental health and life skills intervention (pilot, individually randomized group treatment trial) developed alongside YLWH. SYV was comprised of 10, 90-minute sessions based on evidence-based treatment models designed to improve coping, social support, and hope for future as a pathway to improved adherence and virologic suppression. At baseline, YLWH 12 to 24 years of age were randomized to SYV or standard of care. Participants included in this secondary analysis were enrolled in SYV's crossover waves due to either being randomized to standard of care or inability to attend an earlier group, and therefore delayed intervention exposure. Measured outcomes included self-reported mental health measures, self-reported human immunodeficiency virus measures (stigma and adherence), and human immunodeficiency virus ribonucleic acid. Data was collected at baseline, preintervention, and postintervention timepoints. Participants were included if they attended a crossover wave and had data at all 3 timepoints.


Twenty-one crossover participants met inclusion criteria. Mean scores of self-reported mental health questionnaires were in an asymptomatic range both pre- and postintervention. Viral suppression was N = 15 (71%) preintervention compared to N = 17 (81%) postintervention. The participants who became virologically suppressed had no change in antiretroviral therapy.


Despite the small sample size, findings from this study demonstrate that mental wellbeing may be an important pathway to improved HIV outcomes for YLWH. The same trend toward virologic suppression pre- to postintervention was demonstrated in the randomized pilot trial and suggests that SYV holds promise to improve HIV outcomes. Data from this analysis support the fully powered trial that is now underway.