Children and adolescents affected by HIV are at elevated risk of depression, yet research on related interventions in this population is scarce in sub-Saharan Africa. This study sought to examine the effects of interpersonal psychotherapy for groups (IPTG) on depressive symptomology among orphaned and vulnerable adolescents in South Africa. A cluster randomized controlled trial wherein adolescents ages 14–17 enrolled in community-based programming for HIV-affected and vulnerable families were randomly assigned by geographic cluster to participate in a 16-session IPTG intervention or the standard of care (n = 489). Baseline and postintervention surveys conducted with enrollees included standardized depression screening. Utilizing an intent-to-treat design, mixed effects models were performed to examine treatment effects for all participants and potential moderators including gender and baseline depression level (Clinical Trials registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02386878). While 23% of adolescents in the intervention group did not attend any IPTG sessions, average attendance was 12 out of 16 possible sessions among participants. The intervention was not associated with changes in depression symptomology. Results underscore the importance of mitigating participation barriers prior to intervention roll-out and the need for increased evidence for psychological health interventions to mitigate depression among orphaned and vulnerable adolescents. This intervention and the study selectively targeted at-risk adolescents versus using diagnostic mental health criteria for enrollment; more research is needed to identify the potential benefits and disadvantages of these approaches.
Citation: Thurman, T. R., Nice, J., Taylor, T. M. & Luckett, B. (2017). Mitigating depression among orphaned and vulnerable adolescents: a randomized controlled trial of interpersonal psychotherapy for groups in South Africa. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 22(4), 224-231.