AMARI: the African Mental Health Research Initiative

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Mental health to improve HIV outcomes in Zimbabwe

Dr Abas presenting at the conference

Dr Abas presenting at the conference

AMARI Consortium King’s College London (KCL) Institution Lead Dr Melanie Abas delivered a stirring presentation to delegates attending the first Adherence to HIV Prevention and Treatment: Key Populations in Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa conference held on the 26th and 27th of April 2018 at Cresta Lodge in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Dr Abas co-presented with Psychologist Tarisai Bere on mental health to improve HIV outcomes in Zimbabwe. They spoke of the importance of treating depression to improve ART adherence, a case of the TENDAI study: Treatment for depression and adherence to ART in people living with HIV in Harare, Zimbabwe [1].   

The TENDAI study follows a model called Nzira Itsva (New Direction) which is modelled on the US intervention LifeSteps. Dr Abas described that Nzira Itsva includes identifying client’s motivation to take ART, provides powerful education using an animation, and adds problem solving around barriers to adherence. Dr Abas revealed that the TENDAI intervention appears to be feasible, acceptable and has promising impact in Zimbabwe [2].

The highlight of the presentation was when she shared real life video footage of current work with adolescents through the Creative Arts Hub which saw a collaboration with local musician Tariro NeGitare, Zvandiri charity and London BRIT School.  The Creative Arts Hub uses music, dance, and drama to engage adolescents who have been non-adherent.  Nzira Itsva is then used to deliver group adherence counselling. The Creative Arts intervention is being evaluated in 2018 for its effect on viral suppression.

The two-day conference brought together global HIV researchers, educationists, policy makers and private health sector. It was packaged with rich and interactive presentations, poster exhibitions and discussion sessions. The conference was hosted by the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences – Clinical Trials Research Centre (UZCHS- CTRC) in partnership with the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

1.            Bere, T., et al., Cultural adaptation of a cognitive-behavioural intervention to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy among people living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe: Nzira Itsva. Journal of Health Psychology, 2017. 22(10): p. 1265-1276.

2.            Abas, M., et al., Feasibility and Acceptability of a Task-Shifted Intervention to Enhance Adherence to HIV Medication and Improve Depression in People Living with HIV in Zimbabwe, a Low Income Country in Sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS and Behavior, 2018. 22(1): p. 86-101.

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