Cost-effective mental health interventions for YPLHIV in Southern Africa

Cost-effective mental health interventions for YPLHIV in Southern Africa

Mental health gets more and more recognized as a critical precondition for young people living with HIV to adhere to HIV treatment and to live a healthy life. Though, availability of mental health services is still limited and so are investments by governments. There is a great need for cost-effective mental health interventions. But what do such interventions look like?

Tessa de Weijer, a Dutch medical bachelor student at VUmc School of Medical Sciences conducted a systematic review to gather insight into interventions implemented to support young people living with HIV on their mental health.

Effective interventions

All studies showed that mental-health support has substantial impact on quality of life. Creative activities such as creating cartoon stories for younger youth, peer support and psycho-social interventions showed strong results as these contributed to more positive view of the future.


All studies confirmed a big shortage of mental-health specialists in Southern Africa. ‘Task-sharing’, whereby lay facilitators can learn from mental-health specialists, is seen as a sustainable and cost-effective solution. Also interventions that focused on a group instead of individuals were found to be cost-effective and also contributed to improved communication skills and talking about sensitive topics.


There’s need for studies that focus on the specific needs of young people on different moments after they have learned their HIV status. Research shows that participants experience an enormous amount of emotional distress one year after receiving their diagnoses. One year was considered as a milestone where after they experience themselves not as ‘newly diagnosed youths’ anymore and have to deal with a chronic condition. Also authors of a study separated group-sessions in gender and it turned out that participants experienced a greater sense of comfort.

Because of the wide difference between measurement of mental-health outcomes between studies making a comparative analysis was challenging. There’s a need for more mental-health intervention cost-effectiveness studies to be done using comparative evaluation methods in southern Africa. It’s important that researchers, specialists, policy-makers and funders work together, form partnerships and continue research in order to fill the evidence-based gap of mental-health studies for  young people living with HIV.

This article was published in the Aidsfonds Young People & HIV e-news Feb 2020 edition. Do you want to receive this newsletter in the future? Sign up uses cookies to offer the best website experience possible and to anonymously analyze website behaviour. More information.