Mental health, substance use and viral suppression in adolescents receiving ART at a paediatric HIV clinic in South Africa.

Haas, Andreas D; Technau, Karl-Günter; Pahad, Shenaaz; Braithwaite, Kate; Madzivhandila, Mampho; Sorour, Gillian; Sawry, Shobna; Maxwell, Nicola; von Groote, Per; Tlali, Mpho; Davies, Mary-Ann; Egger, Matthias (2020). Mental health, substance use and viral suppression in adolescents receiving ART at a paediatric HIV clinic in South Africa. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 23(12), e25644. BioMed Central 10.1002/jia2.25644

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Mental health problems are prevalent in adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV), often remain untreated, and may negatively affect antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence and viral suppression. We implemented routine mental health screening at a paediatric ART clinic to improve the identification and management of mental health problems in ALHIV. In this report, we examine screening outcomes, associated patient characteristics and the odds of unsuppressed viral load in ALHIV screening positive for mental disorders.


Adolescents aged 10 to 19 years attending Rahima Moosa Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa between February 1, 2018, and January 1, 2020, were offered mental health screening at each routine HIV care visit. The screening included four pre-screening questions followed by full screening (conditional on positive pre-screening) for depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 [PHQ-9]), suicide (Adolescent Innovations Project [AIP]-handbook), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 [GAD-7]), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Primary Care PTSD Screen [PC-PTSD-5]) and substance use (CAGE Adapted to Include Drugs [CAGE-AID]). We assessed screening outcomes and calculated adjusted odds ratios for associations between positive screening tests at the first screen and unsuppressed viral load (>400 copies/mL) at the measurement taken closest to the date of screening, within hundred days before and one day after screening.


Out of 1203 adolescents who attended the clinic, 1088 (90.4%) were pre-screened of whom 381 (35.0%) underwent full screening, 48 (4.4%) screened positive for depression (PHQ-9 ≥10), 29 (2.8%) for suicidal concern, 24 (2.2%) for anxiety (GAD-7 ≥10), 38 (3.2%) for PTSD (PC-PTSD-5 ≥3), 18 (1.7%) for substance use (CAGE-AID ≥2) and 97 (8.9%) for any of these conditions. Positive screening for depression (aOR 2.39, 95% CI 1.02 to 5.62), PTSD (aOR 3.18, 95% CI 1.11 to 9.07), substance use (aOR 7.13, 95% CI 1.60 to 31.86), or any condition (aOR 2.17, 95% CI 1.17 to 4.02) were strongly associated with unsuppressed viral load.


ALHIV affected by mental health problems have increased rates of unsuppressed viral load and need specific clinical attention. The integration of routine mental health screening in paediatric ART programmes is a feasible approach for identifying and referring adolescents with mental health and adherence problems to counselling and psychosocial support services and if needed to psychiatric care.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Haas, Andreas D; von Groote, Per Maximilian and Egger, Matthias


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




BioMed Central


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Doris Kopp Heim

Date Deposited:

21 Dec 2020 14:07

Last Modified:

21 Dec 2020 14:16

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

HIV South Africa adolescents antiretroviral therapy mental disorders viral suppression




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