HIV and Child Mental Health: A Case-Control Study in Rwanda
BACKGROUND: The global HIV/AIDS response has advanced in addressing the health and well-being of HIV-positive children. Although attention has been paid to children orphaned by parental AIDS, children who live with HIV-positive caregivers have received less attention. This study compares mental health problems and risk and protective factors in HIV-positive, HIV-affected (due to caregiver HIV), and HIV-unaffected children in Rwanda.
METHODS: A case-control design assessed mental health, risk, and protective factors among 683 children aged 10 to 17 years at different levels of HIV exposure. A stratified random sampling strategy based on electronic medical records identified all known HIV-positive children in this age range in 2 districts in Rwanda. Lists of all same-age children in villages with an HIV-positive child were then collected and split by HIV status (HIV-positive, HIV-affected, and HIV-unaffected). One child was randomly sampled from the latter 2 groups to compare with each HIV-positive child per village.
RESULTS: HIV-affected and HIV-positive children demonstrated higher levels of depression, anxiety, conduct problems, and functional impairment compared with HIV-unaffected children. HIV-affected children had significantly higher odds of depression (1.68: 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.15–2.44), anxiety (1.77: 95% CI 1.14–2.75), and conduct problems (1.59: 95% CI 1.04–2.45) compared with HIV-unaffected children, and rates of these mental health conditions were similar to HIV-positive children. These results remained significant after controlling for contextual variables.
CONCLUSIONS: The mental health of HIV-affected children requires policy and programmatic responses comparable to HIV-positive children.
- Accepted May 21, 2014.
- Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics