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Family-based promotion of mental health in children affected by HIV: a pilot randomized controlled trial.

  • Author(s): Betancourt, Theresa S
  • Ng, Lauren C
  • Kirk, Catherine M
  • Brennan, Robert T
  • Beardslee, William R
  • Stulac, Sara
  • Mushashi, Christine
  • Nduwimana, Estella
  • Mukunzi, Sylvere
  • Nyirandagijimana, Beatha
  • Kalisa, Godfrey
  • Rwabukwisi, Cyamatare F
  • Sezibera, Vincent
  • et al.


Children affected by HIV are at risk for poor mental health. We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) of the Family Strengthening Intervention (FSI-HIV), a family home-visiting intervention to promote mental health and improve parent-child relationships in families with caregivers living with HIV, hypothesizing that child and family outcomes would be superior to usual care social work services.


Eighty two families (N = 170 children, 48.24% female; N = 123 caregivers, 68.29% female) with at least one HIV-positive caregiver (n = 103, 83.74%) and school-aged child (ages 7-17) (HIV+ n = 21, 12.35%) were randomized to receive FSI-HIV or treatment-as-usual (TAU). Local research assistants blind to treatment conducted assessments of child mental health, parenting practices, and family functioning at baseline, post-intervention, and 3-month follow-up. Multilevel modeling assessed effects of FSI-HIV on outcomes across three time points.

Trial registration

NCT01509573, 'Pilot Feasibility Trial of the Family Strengthening Intervention in Rwanda (FSI-HIV-R).';NCT01509573?term=Pilot+Feasibility+Trial+of+the+Family+Strengthening+Intervention+in+Rwanda+%28FSI-HIV-R%29&rank=1.


At 3-month follow-up, children in FSI-HIV showed fewer symptoms of depression compared to TAU by both self-report (β = -.246; p = .009) and parent report (β = -.174; p = .035) but there were no significant differences by group on conduct problems, functional impairment, family connectedness, or parenting.


Family-based prevention has promise for reducing depression symptoms in children affected by HIV. Future trials should examine the effects of FSI-HIV over time in trials powered to examine treatment mediators.

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