Integrated psychosocial, economic strengthening, and clinical service-delivery to improve health and resilience of adolescents living with HIV and their caregivers: Findings from a prospective cohort study in Zambia

Joseph G Rosen, Lyson Phiri, Mwelwa Chibuye, Edith S Namukonda, Michael T Mbizvo, Nkomba Kayeyi
PloS One 2021, 16 (1): e0243822

BACKGROUND: Children and youth are profoundly impacted groups in Zambia's HIV epidemic. To evaluate delivery of integrated psychosocial, economic strengthening, and clinical services to HIV-affected households through the Zambia Family (ZAMFAM) Project, a prospective cohort study compared socio-economic, psychosocial, and health outcomes among ZAMFAM beneficiaries to non-beneficiaries.

METHODS: In July-October 2017, 544 adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) aged 5-17 years and their adult caregivers were recruited from Central (ZAMFAM implementation sites) and Eastern (non-intervention sites) Provinces. Structured interviews at baseline and one-year follow-up assessed household characteristics, socio-economic wellbeing, and health service utilization. Poisson regression with generalized estimating equations measured one-year changes in key health and socio-economic indicators, comparing ZAMFAM beneficiaries to non-beneficiaries.

RESULTS: Overall, 494 households completed two rounds of assessment (retention rate: 91%) Among ALHIV, improvements in current antiretroviral therapy use over time (Adjusted Prevalence Rate Ratio [aPRR] = 1.06, 95% Confidence Interval [95% CI]: 1.01-1.11) and reductions in non-household labor (aPRR = 0.44, 95% CI: 0.20-0.99) were significantly larger among ZAMFAM beneficiaries than non-beneficiaries. For caregivers, receiving ZAMFAM services was associated with significant reductions in HIV-related stigma (aPRR = 0.49, 95% CI: 0.28-0.88) and perceived negative community attitudes towards HIV (aPRR = 0.77, 95% CI: 0.62-0.96). Improvements in caregiver capacity to pay for unexpected (aPRR = 1.54, 95% CI: 1.17-2.04) and food-related expenses (aPRR = 1.48, 95% CI: 1.16-1.90), as well as shared decision-making authority in household spending (aPRR = 1.41, 95% CI: 1.04-1.93) and self-reported good or very good health status (aPRR = 1.46, 95% CI: 1.14-1.87), were also significantly larger among ZAMFAM beneficiaries.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant improvements in caregivers' financial capacity were observed among households receiving ZAMFAM services, with few changes in health or wellbeing among ALHIV. Integrated service-delivery approaches like ZAMFAM may yield observable socio-economic improvements in the short-term. Strengthening community-based delivery of psychosocial and health support to ALHIV is encouraged.

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