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Alan J Flisher CPMH Seminar: Depression and HIV/AIDS: adapting and piloting group interpersonal therapy for treatment of depressive symptoms for people with HIV/AIDS in Northwest Ethiopia

The CPMH’s seminar programme is an opportunity to share on-going work and invite broader participation in the Centre.

On 7 September 2021 the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health hosted a seminar by Biksegn Asrat. He is a lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. He has worked in the academia for more than six years, and has been offering psychiatry courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Biksegn has also been serving as a clinician at the psychiatry clinic at the University of Gondar, and participated in community outreach programs to reach out to people with mental health needs in rural communities. Biksegn attended his PhD studies in Public Mental Health at the Alan J Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health at the University of Cape Town since 2018 and graduated in July 2021.


Being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and commencement of lifelong antiretroviral therapy with the requirement of high adherence exacerbates or triggers depressive symptoms. Prevalence of major depression is substantially higher in people with HIV/AIDS (PWHA) than the general population. However, access for mental health interventions remains very limited in Low and Middle-Income Countries. Although low intensity and effective psychological treatments are emerging, issues in relation to their acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness for the HIV population remain unexplored. The aim of this research was to adapt and pilot group interpersonal therapy (IPT) for treatment of depressive symptoms and to evaluate its acceptability and feasibility for PWHA. This research provides information on the process used in examining acceptability and feasibility of psychological interventions to conducting future trials. Mixed study designs that involved evidence synthesis, and single-arm interventional study nested with quantitative and qualitative evaluation were used for this research. Findings of this research indicated that all the IPT problem areas (life change, disagreement, grief and loneliness) were applicable to and important areas for intervention to address depressive symptoms for PWHA in Ethiopia. Most importantly, disagreement within a family and life change due to HIV/AIDS, such as sickness and separation were faced by almost all PWHA, followed by loneliness or social isolation as result of HIV stigma, and grief due to loss of loved ones including a spouse, a child, a mother or a father. Overall evaluation of the intervention suggested that the procedures and outcomes of group based IPT were perceived as acceptable and feasible. Future studies should focus on examining its cost-feasibility and effectiveness for PWHA in low-income settings.

Please view the presentation below.

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