The project aims to provide information on a structured disclosure intervention that can be integrated into usual care in Ghana and other resource-limited settings to improve the welfare of HIV-infected children and their caregivers. This area of investigation is profoundly understudied and of high importance to millions of children and their families in sub-Saharan Africa. While widely recognized as vital to better health outcomes, especially in the era of better access to HIV treatment, many children are not informed of their HIV diagnosis. A variety of sociocultural contextual barriers and deficient skill drive the persistent reluctance of caregivers and health care providers to inform children of the diagnosis. Our preliminary work shows that several key factors can be modified and the process of disclosure promoted with an intervention approach that is grounded in a traditional Ghanaian concept, SANKOFA, and behavioral and bioecological systems theory. The patient-centered intervention approach uses an Adherence and Disclosure specialist model where a designated specialist familiar with the socio-cultural norms of the community is well trained to target modifiable information, motivation and behavioral skills of caregivers to facilitate their engagement in the process of disclosure (i.e., pre-disclosure, disclosure, and post-disclosure phases) in a manner suitable to the needs of the child. The primary aims are: (1) To evaluate the effect of a structured, culturally-relevant disclosure intervention to caregivers delivered by specialist as an integral component of routine HIV healthcare on the rate of caregiver disclosure of pediatric HIV at 1 year follow-up compared to treatment as usual, control condition, in a randomized trial and (2) To identify baseline characteristics (e.g., caregiver knowledge & motivation, child's age) predictive of caregiver disclosure of pediatric HIV independent of and in the presence of the structured disclosure intervention at 1 year follow-up. Secondary aims are: (3) To assess whether the effect of HIV pediatric disclosure on medication adherence and health outcomes of children (virologic, immunologic, psychosocial, and behavioral) and the caregiver (psychosocial) varies by exposure vs. non-exposure to the structured disclosure intervention and (4) To assess the fidelity and acceptability of the disclosure intervention over time among the clinic personnel designated disclosure specialist, caregiver, and children to whom HIV status has been disclosed. Provider, caregiver and child participants will be enrolled from tertiary HIV clinics in Ghana with longitudinal outcomes evaluated every 3 months post-randomization to 24 months post disclosure.
A culturally-relevant, theoretically and empirically sound, patient-centered, standardized disclosure intervention that can be integrated into routine clinical pediatric HIV care has potential to prevent transmission and improve the welfare of children and their caregivers in Ghana and other resource-limited settings. Results from this project will also further an understanding of factors and processes driving pediatric HIV disclosure.
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