The VUKA family program: Piloting a family-based psychosocial intervention to promote health and mental health among HIV infected early adolescents in South Africa.


An increasing number of adolescents born with HIV in South Africa are on antiretroviral treatment and have to confront complex issues related to coping with a chronic, stigmatizing and transmittable illness. Very few evidence-based mental health and health promotion programs for this population exist in South Africa. This study builds on a previous collaboratively designed and developmentally timed family-based intervention for early adolescents (CHAMP). The study uses community-based participatory approach as part of formative research to evaluate a pilot randomized control trial at two hospitals. The paper reports on the development, feasibility, and acceptability of the VUKA family-based program and its short-term impact on a range of psychosocial variables for HIV + preadolescents and their caregivers. A 10-session intervention of approximately 3-month duration was delivered to 65 preadolescents aged 10-13 years and their families. VUKA participants were noted to improve on all dimensions, including mental health, youth behavior, HIV treatment knowledge, stigma, communication, and adherence to medication. VUKA shows promise as a family-based mental and HIV prevention program for HIV + preadolescents and which could be delivered by trained lay staff.