Culturally adapting a mindfulness and acceptance-based intervention to support the mental health of adolescents on antiretroviral therapy in Uganda

Khamisi Musanje*, Ross White, Carol S. Camlin, Moses R. Kamya, Wouter Vanderplasschen, Deborah Louise Sinclair, Monica Getahun, Hope Kirabo, Joan Nangendo, John Kiweewa, Ross G. White, Rosco Kasujja

*Corresponding author for this work

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The dual burden of living with HIV and negotiating life stage changes has been identified as a contributing factor to lapsed adherence among adolescents with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. While psychosocial support can promote medication adherence, most interventions in use with adolescents were originally developed for the general population creating a gap in appropriate support. Life-stage-appropriate, evidence-based psychosocial support interventions have been used with young people in high-income contexts, prompting interest in their use in low-income contexts. However, many interventions are less effective when implemented outside of their original settings, hence the need for modifications before implementation. We aimed to culturally adapt an evidence-based psychosocial support intervention designed to improve the mental health of young people for use among adolescents with HIV in a sub-Saharan African context and to explore the acceptability of the adapted intervention among adolescents. We engaged thirty stakeholders (n = 30) in Kampala, Uganda including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, HIV counselors, religious leaders and adolescent peers from December 2021 to April 2022 to modify an evidence-based intervention for adolescents. Key adaptations included simplifying the language, adding local practices, integrating locally relevant slang and stories into therapy, introducing racially-congruent visuals and cards representing emotions, and adjusting therapy materials for use in resource-constrained settings. We then tested the acceptability of the intervention in a small sample of service users using a qualitative approach. We recruited nine adolescents with HIV from a participating clinic in Kampala, delivered six 90-minute sessions of the adapted intervention across three weeks and conducted in-depth interviews to assess the acceptability of the intervention. We used thematic analysis to analyze the qualitative data. The adapted intervention was perceived as acceptable among adolescents with HIV, with many stating that it helped them overcome fears, increased their self-acceptance, and gave them the confidence to make careful health-enhancing decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0001605
JournalPLOS Global Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 07 Mar 2023


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