Adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV) on antiretroviral therapy (ART) have specific health needs that can be challenging to deliver. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is home to 84% of the global population of ALHIV, of whom about 59% receive ART. Several studies in SSA have demonstrated health service gaps due to lack of synchronized healthcare for ALHIV receiving ART. We conducted a systematic review of health-related needs among ALHIV on ART in SSA to inform decisions and policies on care.
We searched MEDLINE, Web of Science, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cochrane library and grey literature for studies reporting health-related needs among ALHIV receiving ART in SSA, between January 2003 and May 2020.
Results and discussion:
Of the 2333 potentially eligible articles identified, 32 were eligible. Eligible studies were published between 2008 and 2019, in 11 countries: Zambia (7), Uganda (6), Tanzania (4), South Africa (4), Kenya (3), Ghana (2), Zimbabwe (2), Rwanda (1), Malawi (1), Botswana (1) and Democratic Republic of Congo (1). Seven categories of health needs among ALHIV were identified. In descending order of occurrence, these were: psychosocial needs (stigma reduction, disclosure and privacy support, and difficulty accepting diagnosis); dependency of care (need for family and provider support, and desire for autonomy); self-management needs (desire for better coping strategies, medication adherence support and reduced ART side effects); non-responsive health services (non-adolescent friendly facility services and non-compatible school system); need for food, financial and material support; inadequate information about HIV (desire for more knowledge to fight misinformation and misconception); and developmental and growth needs (desire to experience sex, parenthood and love). Ecological analysis identified different priority needs between ALHIV, their caregivers and healthcare providers, including psychosocial needs, financial challenges and non-responsive health services, respectively.
To respond effectively to the health needs of ALHIV and improve ART adherence, interventions should focus on stigma reduction, disclosure challenges and innovative coping mechanisms for ART. Interventions that address the health needs of ALHIV from the perspective of carers and providers, such as financial support schemes and adolescent-friendly healthcare strategies, should supplement efforts to improve adolescent ART adherence outcomes.