Intervention targets for people living with HIV and depressive symptoms in Botswana
Background: The prevalence of HIV in Botswana is high. Many people living with HIV (PLWH) suffer from depressive symptoms and have inadequate coping skills. Most PLWH do not receive adequate psychological treatment. Empirically based interventions for PLWH with depressive symptoms in Botswana should be developed, with a focus on improving coping skills. The present study was a first step towards this goal, by trying to identify targets for intervention. The study aimed to provide prevalence rates of depression among PLWH in Botswana, to assess their mental health treatment needs and wishes as expressed by themselves, and to study the relationships between cognitive and behavioural coping strategies and depressive symptoms.
Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted. The sample consisted of 291 participants (73% female) from 8 HIV treatment centres from Botswana. Participants completed standardized questionnaires on depressive symptoms (CES-D) and coping skills (CERQ, BERQ). They also answered questions regarding their mental health care needs and wishes.
Results: In total 43.4% of participants reported clinically significant depressive symptoms. The majority of participants indicated that they needed help with the following topics: feelings of depression, physical tension, finding new goals and coping with HIV. In addition, they indicated preferring a self-help programme in booklet format. Multiple regression analyses showed that the following coping strategies had significant relationships with depressive symptoms: rumination, catastrophising, withdrawal, positive refocusing and refocus on planning (the latter two negatively).
Conclusion: Almost half of the PLWH reported depressive symptoms that were clinically significant. The findings suggested that an intervention for PLWH with depressive symptoms in Botswana should preferably be a self-help programme presented in booklet format. With regard to content, the results confirmed that the intervention should focus on specific coping skills. In addition, elements like goal finding and strategies to reduce physical tension should be added.
Keywords: Africa, coping skills, depression, goal finding