"I cannot change what happened to me, but I can learn to change how I feel": A case study from ImpACT, an intervention for women with a history of sexual trauma who are living with HIV in Cape Town, South Africa

Psychotherapy (Chic). 2020 Mar;57(1):90-96. doi: 10.1037/pst0000263. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Sexual trauma is highly prevalent among women living with HIV in South Africa, and there is a great need for psychotherapeutic interventions to address these concerns. Improving AIDS Care After Trauma (ImpACT) is a manualized intervention, based on stress and coping theories, that builds skills for coping with sexual trauma and HIV to promote long-term HIV care engagement. Using qualitative case study methodology, we report the case of Xoliswa, a 34-year-old woman with a complex history of sexual trauma and alcohol use who was diagnosed with HIV 1 year prior to enrollment in ImpACT. The interventionist, a lay counselor, worked with Xoliswa in a primary care clinic to address her concerns by exploring personal values, managing barriers to HIV care, and teaching active coping. Xoliswa's drinking reduced, symptoms of trauma and depression improved, and she maintained strong HIV care engagement. The interventionist experienced stress and emotional challenges in delivering ImpACT to Xoliswa and other highly traumatized women, and the interventionist's skill development and support received through training and supervision are briefly discussed. The case demonstrates the feasibility of ImpACT in a resource-limited setting and highlights themes and barriers in therapy, which can inform future interventions for women living with HIV. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Psychosocial Intervention / methods*
  • Sexual Trauma / therapy*
  • South Africa