Children and families affected by HIV are at considerable risk for psychological distress. Community-based home visiting is a common mechanism for providing basic counseling and other services to HIV-affected families. While programs emphasize home visitor training and compensation as means to promote high-quality service delivery, whether these efforts result in measurable gains in beneficiaries’ well-being remains largely unanswered. This study employs a longitudinal quasi-experimental design to explore whether these kinds of investments yield concomitant gains in psychological outcomes among beneficiaries. Baseline and follow-up data were collected over a two-year period from children aged 10–17 at the time of program enrollment and their caregivers, with 80% retention. In this sample of 1487 children and 918 caregivers, the psychological health outcomes of those enrolled in programs with home visitors who receive intensive training, organizational support, and regular compensation (termed “paraprofessional”) were compared to those enrolled in programs offering limited home visiting services from lay volunteers. Applying multilevel logistic regression, no measurable improvements were found among paraprofessional enrollees, and three outcomes were significantly worse at follow-up regardless of program model. Children’s behavior problems became more prevalent even after adjusting for other factors, increasing from 29% to 35% in girls and from 28% to 43% in boys. Nearly one-quarter of girl and boys reported high levels of depression at follow-up, and this was a significant rise over time for boys. Rates of poor family functioning also significantly worsened over time, rising from 30% to 59%. About one-third of caregivers reported high levels of negative feelings at follow-up, with no improvements observed in the paraprofessional group. Results highlight that children’s and caregivers’ psychological outcomes may be relatively impervious to change even in paraprofessional home visiting models. Findings underscore the need for programs serving HIV-affected families to add focused evidence-based psychological interventions to supplement traditional home visiting.
Citation: Thurman, T. R., Kidman, R., & Taylor, T. M. (2014). Does investment in home visitors lead to better psychological health for HIV-affected families? Results from a quasi-experimental evaluation in South Africa. AIDS Care, ,1-9.