Site-Randomized Controlled Trial of a Combined Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and a Medication Management Algorithm for Treatment of Depression Among Youth Living With HIV in the United States

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2021 Dec 15;88(5):497-505. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002790.


Background: Depression is frequent among youth living with HIV (YLWH). Studies suggest that manualized treatment guided by symptom measurement is more efficacious than usual care.

Setting: This study evaluated manualized, measurement-guided depression treatment among YLWH, aged 12-24 years at 13 US sites of the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network.

Methods: Using restricted randomization, sites were assigned to either a 24-week, combination cognitive behavioral therapy and medication management algorithm (COMB-R) tailored for YLWH or to enhanced standard of care, which provided standard psychotherapy and medication management. Eligibility included diagnosis of nonpsychotic depression and current depressive symptoms. Arm comparisons used t tests on site-level means.

Results: Thirteen sites enrolled 156 YLWH, with a median of 13 participants per site (range 2-16). At baseline, there were no significant differences between arms on demographic factors, severity of depression, or HIV status. The average site-level participant characteristics were as follows: mean age of 21 years, 45% male, 61% Black, and 53% acquired HIV through perinatal transmission. At week 24, youth at COMB-R sites, compared with enhanced standard of care sites, reported significantly fewer depressive symptoms on the Quick Inventory for Depression Symptomatology Self-Report (QIDS-SR score 6.7 vs. 10.6, P = 0.01) and a greater proportion in remission (QIDS-SR score ≤ 5; 47.9% vs. 17.0%, P = 0.01). The site mean HIV viral load and CD4 T-cell level were not significantly different between arms at week 24.

Conclusions: A manualized, measurement-guided psychotherapy and medication management algorithm tailored for YLWH significantly reduced depressive symptoms compared with standard care at HIV clinics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical
  • Male
  • Medication Therapy Management*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents