Original Research

Physical development and mental health in South African perinatally HIV-positive adolescents on antiretroviral therapy and their caregivers with and without household food insecurity

Sarah Heany, Nicole Phillips, Landon Myer, Heather Zar, Dan Stein, Jacqueline Hoare
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 22, No 1 | a1316 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v22i1.1316 | © 2021 Sarah Heany | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 September 2021 | Published: 15 December 2021

About the author(s)

Sarah Heany, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Nicole Phillips, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Landon Myer, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Heather Zar, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Dan Stein, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Jacqueline Hoare, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Perinatally acquired HIV-infected (PHIV+) adolescents have shown impairments in neurocognitive function and mental health problems compared with their peers. The contribution of food insecurity to such impairments has not been explored.

Objectives: The aim of this report has been to explore the contribution of food insecurity to neurocognitive impairment and mental health problems in adolescents with perinatally-acquired HIV infection.

Method: A total of 248 PHIV+ adolescents and healthy controls aged between 9 and 12 years completed a neuropsychological battery, the Childhood Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) and the Becks Youth Inventory. Head circumference, body mass index (BMI), height for age (HAZ), Tanner pubertal staging, albumin, haemoglobin, CD4 and viral loads were also measured. Participants’ caregivers were interviewed about their mental health and household food security. T-tests were used to assess for differences in food secure and food insecure households.

Results: Caregivers of PHIV+ adolescents reported higher levels of depressive symptoms and household food insecurity. Increased food insecurity was associated with more behavioural problems in adolescents, as well as lower haemoglobin and albumin levels, faster processing speed and increased Tanner staging in boys. Body mass index and HAZ were not affected by food insecurity.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that household food insecurity is associated with some altered behavioural, physical and physiological outcomes, which could complicate and compound the existing difficulties in PHIV+ households.


Keywords

HIV; caregiver depression; behavioural problems; hunger risk; food security; poverty

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