Ssewamala Nabunya to lead NIHfunded study on ways to reduce the stigma of HIVAIDS among adolescents in Uganda

Faculty; Global; Public Health; Research; Social Work

Fred Ssewamala, William E. Gordon Distinguished Professor at the Brown School and Proscovia Nabunya, research assistant professor, have received a two-year, $425,000 award from the National Institute of Mental Health to address HIV/AIDS-associated stigma among adolescents in Southwest Uganda.

“Stigma has been identified as one of the main challenges to slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS,” noted Nabunya, a co-principal investigator with Ssewamala. “Fear of discrimination and public blame has prevented individuals from getting tested for HIV and seeking health care, particularly in adolescent populations.”

To address these challenges, this new study will test two evidence-based interventions, Group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Multiple Family Group sessions, to see which is more effective in reducing HIV/AIDS-associated stigma among adolescents. The study will target both internal individual and family level stigma and how the interventions impact participant’s trauma, depression, sexual risk, support systems and adherence to medication.

“The ultimate goal is to reduce HIV rates and improve child well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa and this study is an important first step,” Ssewamala said. “It will lay the foundation for a larger study investigating how HIV/AIDS-associated stigma can be reduced to foster healthy child development, especially for children living with HIV as they transition to adolescence.”

The team will also examine the experiences of both participants and facilitators to identify individual, family and institutional-level facilitators and barriers to both interventions in order to inform future implementation and participation. This part of the study will be led by Ozge Sensoy Bahar, research assistant professor at the Brown School.