Nabunya, Cavazos-Rehg Awarded $1.2M Funding to Study Depression Among Youth With HIV in Uganda

Faculty; Global; Research; Social Work

Proscovia Nabunya, assistant professor at the Brown School and co-director of the International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD); and Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, have received a five-year $1.2 million research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to address depression among youth living with HIV in Uganda.

The project, titled Suubi-Mhealth (suubi means hope in the Luganda language), will develop a mobile health intervention for use by Ugandan youth with comorbid HIV and depression, taking into account their unique contextual, cultural, and developmental needs. The core of the Suubi-Mhealth intervention will be based on cognitive-behavioral therapy that has been found to improve depression and treatment adherence among individuals with HIV.

This study builds on pilot funding from Washington University’s McDonnell International Scholar’s Academy Global Incubator Seed Grant Program to Nabunya and Cavazos-Rehg, in collaboration with Makerere University in Uganda—a McDonnell Partner. The study was implemented by the ICHAD field office in Masaka, Uganda.

“Digital intervention strategies addressing depression plus HIV treatment adherence among youth in sub-Saharan Africa are almost non-existent,” Nabunya said. 

“Given the many barriers to care experienced by Ugandan youth living with HIV, as well as the lack of access to trained providers, the Suubi-Mhealth intervention is a viable and sustainable approach for treating depression in this priority population.”

After the current two-year $370,000 formative phase, NIMH will review the progress to approve the remaining $830,000 to test the preliminary impact of the Suubi-Mhealth intervention on youth outcomes over the final three years of the grant.