Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


Background: HIV–positive women suffer a high burden of mental disorders due in part to gender-based violence (GBV). Comorbid depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are typical psychiatric consequences of GBV. Despite attention to the HIV-GBV syndemic, few HIV clinics offer formal mental healthcare. This problem is acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where the world’s majority of HIV–positive women live and prevalence of GBV is high.

Methods and findings: We conducted a randomized controlled trial at an HIV clinic in Kisumu, Kenya. GBV-affected HIV–positive women with both major depressive disorder (MDD) and PTSD were randomized to 12 sessions of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) plus treatment as usual (TAU) or Wait List+TAU. Nonspecialists were trained to deliver IPT inside the clinic. After 3 months, participants were reassessed, and those assigned to Wait List+TAU were given IPT. The primary outcomes were diagnosis of MDD and PTSD (Mini International NeuropsychiatricInterview) at 3 months. Secondary outcomes included symptom measures of depression and PTSD, intimate partner violence (IPV), and disability. A total of 256 participants enrolled between May 2015 and July 2016. At baseline, the mean age of the women in this study was 37 years; 61% reported physical IPV in the past week; 91% reported 2 or more lifetime traumatic events and monthly income was 18USD. Multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression showed that participants randomized to IPT+TAU had lower odds of MDD (odds ratio [OR] 0.26, 95% CI [0.11 to 0.60], p = 0.002) and lower odds of PTSD (OR 0.35, [0.14 to 0.86], p = 0.02) than controls. IPT+TAU participants had lower odds of MDD-PTSD comorbidity than controls (OR 0.36, 95% CI [0.15 to 0.90], p = 0.03). Linear mixed models were used to assess secondary outcomes: IPT+TAU participants had reduced disability (−6.9 [−12.2, −1.5], p = 0.01), and non-significantly reduced work absenteeism (−3.35 [−6.83, 0.14], p = 0.06); partnered IPT+TAU participants had a reduction of IPV (−2.79 [−5.42, −- 0.16], p = 0.04). Gains were maintained across 6-month follow-up. Treatment group differences were observed only at month 3, the time point at which the groups differed in IPT status (before cross over). Study limitations included 35% attrition inclusive of follow-up assessments, generalizability to populations not in HIV care, and data not collected on TAU resources accessed.

Conclusions: IPT for MDD and PTSD delivered by nonspecialists in the context of HIV care yielded significant improvements in HIV–positive women’s mental health, functioning, and GBV (IPV) exposure, compared to controls.

Publication (Name of Journal)

PLOS Medicine

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Psychiatry Commons