Adolescents living with HIV are more vulnerable to mental illness – study

Preliminary study on mental health of adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) mothers and their children, has shown that they are more likely to face mental health issues than teenage mothers who are not infected/Dan Nsengiyumva
Preliminary study on mental health of adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) mothers and their children, has shown that they are more likely to face mental health issues than teenage mothers who are not infected/Dan Nsengiyumva

Preliminary results from a study on mental health of adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) mothers and their children have shown that they are more likely to face mental health issues than teenage mothers who are not infected.

This was highlighted on Thursday, by Camille Wittesaele, a researcher from Oxford University, United Kingdom, during the ongoing International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted infections (ICASA) in Kigali.

Camille Wittesaele, Oxford University, United Kingdom.

The study was made in South Africa, on a group of 1,025 adolescent mothers, with a third of them HIV positive and their children.

Whereas from the age of 14 to 17, less mothers were living with HIV at the birth of their first babies, there were more of them from the age of 18 to 20.

In the selected group, 51% had their first child before they turned 18, 25% lived in rural areas, 83% lacked basic necessities, 24% lived in informal housing, 29% were not in school even one year after delivery. 

Some of the problems these adolescent mothers were found to be facing include; Poor mental health and physical health, earlier school dropouts, have lower parenting skills, lower access to work and increase in poverty level.

Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) who were HIV negative showed less than 5 percent suicidality, and around 13 percent chances of having mental issues.

Adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) also showed less than 5 percent suicidality, and around 12 percent chances of having mental issues.

ALHIV moms showed more than five suicidalities, and more than 15% chances of having mental issues.

6 percent of Adolescent Mothers Living with HIV never started taking their Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), 34 percent started after the end of the first trimester, and 10% stopped taking their ART during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Among the Adolescent mothers living with HIV, 19 percent had more than one child, 20 percent wanted to have more than one or two children, 63 percent started their hormonal contraception, 55 percent became pregnant during interviews, 15 percent had correct knowledge on all safe conception items.

The Children of Adolescent Mothers Living with HIV

37 percent were exclusively breastfed in the first six months of their lives, 21 percent were breastfed more than six months.

11.2 percent of children who were tested in the following year were sero-positive, and 53 percent of first children had ART to treat HIV or prevent it.

Only 42 percent of the children were fully immunized.

According to Global HIV statistics, there were approximately 37.9 million people across the globe with HIV/AIDS in 2018, among which 1.7 million were children under 15 years of age.

In the same year, an estimated 1.7 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2018, and 160,000 of the infections were among children below 15.

The majority of children living with HIV live in Africa. Globally, 120,000 children died due to AIDS-related illnesses in 2016, which equates to 328 deaths every day.

Children aged 0–4 years living with HIV are more likely to die than any people living with HIV of any other age.

In addition, millions of more children are indirectly affected by the impact of the HIV epidemic on their families and communities.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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