Preventing mental health conditions in adolescents living with HIV: an urgent need for evidence

J Int AIDS Soc. 2020 Sep;23 Suppl 5(Suppl 5):e25556. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25556.


Introduction: As adolescents transition from childhood to adulthood, they experience major physical, social and psychological changes, and are at heightened risk for developing mental health conditions and engaging in health-related risk behaviours. For adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV), these risks may be even more pronounced. Research shows that this population may face additional mental health challenges related to the biological impact of the disease and its treatment, the psychosocial burdens of living with HIV and HIV-related social and environmental stressors.

Discussion: Psychosocial interventions delivered to adolescents can promote positive mental health, prevent mental health problems and strengthen young people's capacity to navigate challenges and protect themselves from risk. It is likely that these interventions can also benefit at-risk populations, such as ALHIV, yet there is little research on this. There is an urgent need for more research evaluating the effects of interventions designed to improve the mental health of ALHIV. We highlight four priorities moving forward. These include: generating more evidence about preventive mental health interventions for ALHIV; including mental health outcomes in research on psychosocial interventions for ALHIV; conducting intervention research that is sensitive to differences among ALHIV populations and involving adolescents in intervention design and testing.

Conclusions: More robust research on promotive and preventive mental health interventions is needed for ALHIV. Programmes should be informed by adolescent priorities and preferences and responsive to the specific needs of these groups.

Keywords: adolescents; interventions; mental health; psychosocial interventions; public health; social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Mental Health*
  • Psychosocial Intervention
  • Research