Dr Michael Evangeli, from the Clinical Psychology Department at Royal Holloway University, in collaboration with partners in Botswana, has completed a three-year study of Sentebale’s network clubs and camps programme, which revealed the improved wellbeing of 10 to 19-year-olds living with HIV in Botswana.
Funded by Viiv Healthcare, the study assessed the effectiveness, perceived impact, and experience of our package of psychosocial support offered to young people living with HIV and their caregivers in Botswana.
Dr Evangeli presented findings of the study during an event attended by representatives from the Botswana Government, UNICEF, and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), in Gaborone, Botswana earlier in 2022.
Young people and their caregivers, across the 14 sites where the research took place, agreed that the clubs and camp were a supportive environment and brought a sense of togetherness, acceptance, and freedom to be themselves. They felt a lot of gratitude towards the programme, that the intervention changed their perception of their HIV diagnosis, making them more optimistic about the future. Both young people and their caregivers reported positive attitudes towards taking medication, high self-esteem, strong social support, and a positive sense of hope. The report found there were reductions in mental health symptoms for young people and an increase in HIV knowledge for both young people and their caregivers.
Dr Evangeli said; “The results not only show positive outcomes for those in Botswana but also have implications for young people with HIV globally. This gives us a greater understanding of how young people and their caregivers are coping and how the support from Sentebale translates into improved wellbeing. Many young people who are diagnosed with HIV feel very alone with their condition and may have only recently been told they are HIV positive. Sentebale helps them to interact with others who understand the concerns they face. Many times, young people with HIV are told not to talk about HIV to others in their community, so start to feel isolated. This is where projects like this really can change the lives of those affected by HIV.”
Sentebale runs residential camps and monthly clubs at healthcare facilities to improve the wellbeing and adherence to medication of children and adolescents living with HIV. Together, through peer-led activities they learn about the virus, how to take their medication, how to tackle some of their daily challenges, and importantly they create support networks with their peers, caregivers and healthcare professionals.
Richard Miller, Sentebale CEO said; “This study demonstrates the positive impact of Sentebale’s approach to date and helps us understand how we can adapt and improve in the future. The quantitative and qualitative data gathered provides proof that camps, clubs, and groups can be beneficial for young people living with HIV and their caregivers. As we seek to rebuild our programme, following the COVID-19 pandemic, we will use these findings to ensure a continued evidence-based approach that delivers value for money and responds to the expressed needs of children and young people.”
Bakang’s Story – Sentebale Youth Advocate and HIV Activist
The research for the study was carried out in Botswana with the help of ACHAP, which provides technical assistance and health-focused capacity-building and has successfully supported HIV and TB prevention, care and treatment.
Quotes from young people and their caregivers
“I learned a lot from the club meetings… I’m not the only one infected and it does not mean that’s the end of life.”
“I took the teaching into practice and started to take my medication every day, and on time, and it helped me because my virus is now suppressed.”
Young person living with HIV
“Before the programme started, we always had to remind him when it was time for him to take his medication. He can now take his medication without anyone having to remind him. Whenever he is having a trip at school, he will notify us for us to prepare enough medication for duration of the trip. When he gets there, he will also inform us to call the teacher accompanying them to keep his medication on his behalf.”