The Psychosocial Problems of Children With HIV/AIDS on Antiretroviral Treatment: A Longitudinal Study

This study concerns children with HIV/AIDS who are on antiretroviral medication. Chronic illnesses can have a significant impact on the child’s development and social and emotional functioning. Very little research has been done on the problems in social and emotional functioning of children infected with HIV/AIDS who are on antiretroviral medication. This research concerns the first two measurements of a longitudinal study into the social and emotional development of children with HIV/AIDS entered in an ARV treatment programme, provided by the AIDS office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference at Pretoria, South Africa. In this study, the social and emotional functioning of children with HIV/AIDS (experimental group) will be compared with the functioning of children without HIV/AIDS (control group). In addition, the effects of traumatic experiences and age will be analysed. Social and emotional functioning has been operationalised by means of the varaibles ‘depression/anxiety’, ‘withdrawal’ and ‘social problems’. For 113 of the 138 original subjects who participated in the first measurement, questionnaires have been completed by the primary caregivers or teachers (experimental group N=58, 30 male and 28 female; control group N=55, 26 male and 29 female). The mean age was 10.5 years old (8.5 experimental group, 10.2 control group). These questionnaires contained a compilation of the scales concerning internalising problems from the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) and the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). In contrast to results from the first wave, the results of the second wave reveal that children with HIV/AIDS show significant more depression/anxiety, withdrawal and social problems than children without HIV/AIDS on measurement two. Children with HIV/AIDS have significant more traumatic experiences than children without HIV/AIDS, but in contrast to the expectations these traumatic experiences as well as the age of the participants have no effect on their social and emotional functioning. Concluding, these findings indicate that children with HIV/AIDS develop more problems in social and emotional functioning compared to children without HIV/AIDS.

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