HIV+ and HIV- youth living in group homes in South Africa need more psychosocial support

D. F. Nestadt, S. Alicea, I. Petersen, S. John, N. P. Myeza, S. W. Nicholas, L. G. Cohen, H. Holst, A. Bhana, M. M. McKay, E. J. Abrams, C. A. Mellins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Orphans and vulnerable youth who live in group homes are at risk of poor mental health and sexual and drug-using behaviors that increase the risk of HIV transmission. This study explores factors related to this risk among youth living in group homes ("children's homes") for orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa, a country afflicted by high levels of parental loss due to HIV. The study explores (1) knowledge and attitudes about HIV, (2) social support, (3) communication with group home caregivers, and (4) the relevance of an existing evidence-based HIV prevention and mental health promotion program to situations where sexual and drug risk behaviors can occur. In-depth qualitative individual interviews were conducted with 20 youth (age 10-16 years) residing in two children's homes in Durban, South Africa. Content analysis focused on critical themes related to coping and prevention of risk activities. Respondents exhibited inconsistent and incomplete knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention. They displayed positive attitudes toward people living with HIV, but reported experiencing or witnessing HIV-related stigma. Participants witnessed substance use and romantic/sexual relationships among their peers; few admitted to their own involvement. While relationships with childcare workers were central to their lives, youth reported communication barriers related to substance use, sex, HIV, and personal history (including parental loss, abuse, and other trauma). In conclusion, these qualitative data suggest that evidence-based HIV prevention programs that bring caregivers and youth together to improve communication, HIV knowledge, social support, youth self-esteem, and health care, reduce sexual and drug risk behaviors, and strengthen skills related to negotiating situations of sexual and substance use possibility could benefit youth and childcare workers in children's homes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-205
Number of pages11
JournalVulnerable Children and Youth Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • South Africa
  • children's homes
  • orphans
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'HIV+ and HIV- youth living in group homes in South Africa need more psychosocial support'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this