Which HIV-infected youth are at risk of developing depression and what treatments help? A systematic review focusing on Southern Africa

Cara Haines, Maria Loades, Bronwyne Coetzee, Nina Higson-Sweeney

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Depression is common in people with HIV and is associated with lower quality of life, reduced medication adherence, worse disease progression and higher risk of transmission to others. While the majority of HIV-infected youth live in Southern Africa, research has largely focused on adults from Western countries, with limited generalisability across these populations. This review sought to identify and synthesise research on the risk factors for depression in HIV-infected youth in Southern Africa, and to summarise the available evidence on psychosocial interventions to reduce depression. A systematic review was conducted of studies using a validated measure of depression in HIV-infected youth (aged ≤19) in Southern Africa. Eligible studies included either analysis of variables associated with depression, or evaluation of the impact of psychosocial interventions on depression in this population. Twelve studies met inclusion criteria for assessing risk factors, based on nine independent samples, constituting 3573 HIV-infected youth (aged 9-19 years). Study quality varied, with heterogeneous methodology limiting comparability and conclusions. There is some evidence that female gender, older age, food insecurity, exposure to abuse and internalised stigma are risk factors for depression, while disclosure of HIV status, satisfaction with relationships and social support are protective. Only one study met inclusion criteria for assessing psychosocial interventions (n = 65; aged 10-13 years). The intervention study did not successfully reduce depression, demonstrating a need for low-cost, large scale interventions to be developed and trialled. This review has highlighted the dearth of research into depression in HIV-infected youth in Southern Africa. Disclosing HIV status could be an important protective factor.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190037
JournalInternational Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health
Early online date6 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2019


  • HIV
  • South Africa
  • adolescents
  • children
  • intervention
  • mood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Depression in paediatric chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)

Loades, M., Crawley, E., Kessler, D. & Stallard, P.


Project: Central government, health and local authorities

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