The McSilver Institute Launches Five-Year, NIH-Funded Study on Addressing Health and Behavioral Health Care Needs of HIV+ South African Youth
With the relatively recent large-scale rollout of antiretroviral treatment in South Africa, a generation of children who were born HIV+ and who were not expected to live beyond age 5, will soon enter adolescence. But judging from other countries with longstanding access to these drugs, many of these youth will exhibit risk behaviors -- such as failing to keep medical appointments or engaging in sexual and drug risking taking behavior -- that generate consequences for both their own health and public health.
Now the McSilver Institute on Poverty Policy and Research, housed in the Silver School of Social Work at New York University, has been awarded a $3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to meet the urgent need to develop effective and sustainable HIV care and prevention approaches for the unprecedentedly large population of perinatally HIV-infected (PHIV+) South African youth and their families. The study will also aim to increase understanding of behavioral and health risks in this emerging population.
The theory-driven five-year McSilver Institute study will enroll 360 PHIV+ early adolescents in KwaZulu-Natal, a South African province with one of the highest rates of children born with HIV. It will examine the impact of the research-based "VUKA Family Program," a household-based intervention, which uses illustrated cartoons to convey information to families, promote overall physical and mental health, and reduce behavioral risk. If the program is shown to be successful, the study will also examine what it would take to expand its reach, looking at factors such as staff delivery skill, clinic organizational challenges, perception of burden, and implementation constraints.
Professor Mary McKay, principal investigator and director of the McSilver Institute, stated, "These children and their families reside in some of the most impoverished communities in South Africa. The goal of this intervention is to address the multitude of health and developmental needs in a way that is culturally sensitive and sustainable. I am deeply grateful to NIHCD for their support and confidence in the McSilver Institute."