The Psychosocial Problems of Children with HIV/AIDS on Antiretroviral Treatment in South Africa

First Measure.

South Africa’s AIDS epidemic is one of the worst in the world, not showing evidence of a decline. Fortunately, ARV treatment programs are starting and expanding, which results in a change in the disease progress from deadly to chronic. This is the first part of a longitudinal study on behalf of the AIDS Office of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, that provides antiretroviral medication to a large and growing number of people in South Africa. The purpose is to examine the differences in psychosocial problems between HIV infected children entered in the ARV-program and children without HIV/AIDS. Psychosocial problems has been operationalised as depression/anxiety, withdrawal and social problems. 69 Interviews have been completed with the primary caregivers of HIV infected children on treatment (age 4-12; 39 male, 30 female). Another 69 interviews were held with the teachers of the control group, consisting of 69 children that were not infected with the virus (age 4-12, 29 male, 37 female). These interviews contained 46 questions, a compilation of the scales concerning internalising problems from the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) and the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The HIV/AIDS infected children were expected to have more psychosocial problems than the control group. The results did not confirm this expectation: no significant differences where found between the two groups, even after controlling for several possible covariates. Significant differences were found in the amount of traumatic experiences between the two groups; the experimental group had encountered more trauma. Remarkably, this does not appear to have an effect on the psychosocial problems experienced by these children. In addition, the orphaned children living within the extended family system experienced significant more psychosocial problems than children living with their parent(s) or in an orphanage. Concluding, these findings indicate that the HIV/AIDS infected children experience approximately the same amount of psychosocial problems as the control group, in spite of the large difference in traumatic experiences or environments they live in.

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