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Family-based prevention of mental health problems in children affected by HIV and AIDS



The objective of this study is to assess the feasibility and acceptability of an intervention to reduce mental health problems and bolster resilience among children living in households affected by caregiver HIV in Rwanda.


Pre-post design, including 6-month follow-up.


The Family Strengthening Intervention (FSI) aims to reduce mental health problems among HIV-affected children through improved child-caregiver relationships, family communication and parenting skills, HIV psychoeducation and connections to resources. Twenty families (N = 39 children) with at least one HIV-positive caregiver and one child 7-17 years old were enrolled in the FSI. Children and caregivers were administered locally adapted and validated measures of child mental health problems, as well as measures of protective processes and parenting. Assessments were administered at pre and postintervention, and 6-month follow-up. Multilevel models accounting for clustering by family tested changes in outcomes of interest. Qualitative interviews were completed to understand acceptability, feasibility and satisfaction with the FSI.


Families reported high satisfaction with the FSI. Caregiver-reported improvements in family connectedness, good parenting, social support and children's pro-social behaviour (P < 0.05) were sustained and strengthened from postintervention to 6-month follow-up. Additional improvements in caregiver-reported child perseverance/self-esteem, depression, anxiety and irritability were seen at follow-up (P < .05). Significant decreases in child-reported harsh punishment were observed at postintervention and follow-up, and decreases in caregiver reported harsh punishment were also recorded on follow-up (P < 0.05).


The FSI is a feasible and acceptable intervention that shows promise for improving mental health symptoms and strengthening protective factors among children and families affected by HIV in low-resource settings.

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