“Mental health” refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It is an important part of staying healthy when living with HIV. Mental health affects how you think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Children and adolescents living with, or affected by HIV are especially vulnerable to poor social, emotional and mental health outcomes.
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, covers “psychological first aid”. Psychological first aid refers to both psychological and social support.
While the provision of psychosocial support has been acknowledged to have a significant and positive impact on people’s health, the psychosocial needs of children and adolescents are often overlooked when providing services to them and their caregivers. The focus on psychosocial support is especially critical for children and adolescents infected and affected by HIV and AIDS as they are particularly vulnerable to psychological and social stressors which impact negatively on their development and wellbeing. There is an estimate of 1.2 million HIV-positive children and adolescents in Eastern and Southern Africa. In order to reach the SDG3 of ensuring healthy and productive lives for all, urgent action is needed to rapidly scale-up psychosocial support programmes for children and adolescents living with and affected by HIV.
Click here to read RIATT-ESA policy brief- Evidence for improving psychosocial outcomes for children affected by HIV and AIDS