Importance of support groups to the health and well-being of vulnerable children and young people living with HIV: a case study of the Kids Clubs program in Haiti
Susan K. Settergren, Robert Philippe, Joanne St. Louis, Nathaniel Segaren, Sylvie Boisson, Tessa Lewis, Olbeg Désinor, and Kesner François
2021. BMC Health Services Research. 21: 236
Background: Although access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) among children and young people living with HIV has increased in recent years, adherence to medication and viral suppression remain challenges. Evidence of benefits of support groups is growing and reflects a range of models and approaches. Since 2014, hospital-linked psychosocial support groups for children and young people living with HIV, known as Kids Clubs, have been established throughout Haiti. The program provides safe spaces for them to meet with peers, supports medication adherence, delivers health and life skills education, and facilitates linkages with clinic visits and social services. This study describes program enrollment and participant engagement, ART adherence and viral suppression among participants, and other outcomes attributed to the program by participants, caregivers, and program implementers.
Methods: Our mixed methods study included quantitative analysis of program monitoring data on rollout and attendance, and medication adherence and viral load results extracted from medical records. We collected qualitative data from club members, caregivers, and implementers about their experiences with the clubs and the impact of participation.
Results: From January 2014–December 2018, 1330 individuals aged 8–29 were enrolled in the program; over three-quarters participated for at least 12 months. In 2018, 1038 members attended at least one club meeting; more than half missed three or fewer monthly meetings. Three-quarters of ever-enrolled members reported consistent medication use at their most recent clinic visit; 64.2% (600/935) of those with a recent viral load test were virally suppressed. Level of club attendance was positively associated with ART adherence (p < 0.01) and viral suppression (p < 0.05). Club members, caregivers, and implementers noted the value of the clubs to participants’ retention in care and medication adherence, health knowledge, and capacity to deal with peer pressure, stigma, shyness, and depression.