To determine the burden of psychosocial problems amongst children and Adolescents living with HIV infection and their HIV-negative age and gender-matched controls;
To determine the correlation of psychosocial problems in children and adolescents living with HIV infection with the markers of HIV disease severity.
Methods A hospital-based comparative cross-sectional study in which 330 children and adolescents aged 4–17 years were recruited; HIV-infected (n=165) and HIV- uninfected (n=165). They were selected consecutively and matched for age and gender after meeting the eligibility criteria and providing consent/assent. A study-designed semi-structured questionnaire was employed to collect data on socio-demographics along with HIV-related baseline characteristics of the study participants. The full version of the self and parent report strengths and difficulties questionnaires (SDQ) was used for psychosocial well-being assessment. Data obtained were analysed using SPSS version 25. P-values < 0.05 were considered significant.
There were 196/330 (59.4%) females and 134/330 (40.6%), M: F =1:1.5. The prevalence of psychosocial problems as defined by abnormal total difficulties scores (TDS) was 27.9% (HIV-infected) vs. 24.2% (controls); p = 0.417. The SDQ subgroup with the highest prevalence was the emotional problem scale and commoner amongst the adolescents as compared to the children. There were higher odds of psychosocial problems amongst the HIV-infected which were not statistically significant OR = 1.21, 95% CI: 0.74 - 1.98; p = 0.53. On Spearman’s correlation analysis, all assessed clinical and laboratory markers of HIV disease severity were not significant correlates of psychosocial problems (p > 0.05).
Conclusions Although living with HIV infection may affect the psychosocial well-being of an individual, HIV does not distinctively increase susceptibility to psychosocial problems. The practice of routine psychometric screening of children and adolescents may be considered since the challenge affects a significant number of all presenting to the health care facility irrespective of their HIV status.
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