Interpersonal psychotherapy delivered by nonspecialists for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder among Kenyan HIV-positive women affected by gender-based violence: Randomized controlled trial

PLoS Med. 2021 Jan 11;18(1):e1003468. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003468. eCollection 2021 Jan.


Background: HIV-positive women suffer a high burden of mental disorders due in part to gender-based violence (GBV). Comorbid depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are typical psychiatric consequences of GBV. Despite attention to the HIV-GBV syndemic, few HIV clinics offer formal mental healthcare. This problem is acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where the world's majority of HIV-positive women live and prevalence of GBV is high.

Methods and findings: We conducted a randomized controlled trial at an HIV clinic in Kisumu, Kenya. GBV-affected HIV-positive women with both major depressive disorder (MDD) and PTSD were randomized to 12 sessions of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) plus treatment as usual (TAU) or Wait List+TAU. Nonspecialists were trained to deliver IPT inside the clinic. After 3 months, participants were reassessed, and those assigned to Wait List+TAU were given IPT. The primary outcomes were diagnosis of MDD and PTSD (Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview) at 3 months. Secondary outcomes included symptom measures of depression and PTSD, intimate partner violence (IPV), and disability. A total of 256 participants enrolled between May 2015 and July 2016. At baseline, the mean age of the women in this study was 37 years; 61% reported physical IPV in the past week; 91% reported 2 or more lifetime traumatic events and monthly income was 18USD. Multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression showed that participants randomized to IPT+TAU had lower odds of MDD (odds ratio [OR] 0.26, 95% CI [0.11 to 0.60], p = 0.002) and lower odds of PTSD (OR 0.35, [0.14 to 0.86], p = 0.02) than controls. IPT+TAU participants had lower odds of MDD-PTSD comorbidity than controls (OR 0.36, 95% CI [0.15 to 0.90], p = 0.03). Linear mixed models were used to assess secondary outcomes: IPT+TAU participants had reduced disability (-6.9 [-12.2, -1.5], p = 0.01), and nonsignificantly reduced work absenteeism (-3.35 [-6.83, 0.14], p = 0.06); partnered IPT+TAU participants had a reduction of IPV (-2.79 [-5.42, -0.16], p = 0.04). Gains were maintained across 6-month follow-up. Treatment group differences were observed only at month 3, the time point at which the groups differed in IPT status (before cross over). Study limitations included 35% attrition inclusive of follow-up assessments, generalizability to populations not in HIV care, and data not collected on TAU resources accessed.

Conclusions: IPT for MDD and PTSD delivered by nonspecialists in the context of HIV care yielded significant improvements in HIV-positive women's mental health, functioning, and GBV (IPV) exposure, compared to controls.

Trial registration: Clinical Trials Identifier NCT02320799.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Gender-Based Violence / psychology*
  • HIV Seropositivity*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy*
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*

Associated data