The Impact of Peer Mentorship on HIV/AIDS Knowledge, Beliefs and Prevention Attitudes Among AIDS-Orphaned Adolescents: Evidence from the Suubi and Bridges Mentorship Programs in Uganda

Friday, January 16, 2015: 3:50 PM
Preservation Hall Studio 1, Second Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Nattabi, BA, Project Coordinator - Suubi Rakai Office, Columbia University, New York, NY
Proscovia Nabunya, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Miriam N. Mukasa, BA, Research Associate, New York University, New York, NY
Fred M. Ssewamala, PhD, Associate Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: HIV/AIDS is one of the leading causes of mortality among youth between 10 and 24 years in developing countries (Patton et al, 2009). An estimated 2.1 million adolescents between 10-19 years of age are living with HIV/AIDS and 1.7 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (UNICEF, 2013). Orphans and vulnerable adolescents are even at a higher risk of exposure to HIV. Initiating HIV/AIDS prevention interventions –especially in primary schools prior to sexual debut is essential in preventing exposure to HIV/AIDS (Gallant & Maticka –Tyndale, 2004). This study examines the impact of a peer mentorship program on HIV/AIDS knowledge, beliefs and prevention attitudes among primary school going AIDS-orphaned adolescents in Uganda.

Methods: We use data from Bridges to the Future study a 5-year randomized controlled trial funded by NICHD (2011-2016). A total of 1410 AIDS-orphaned adolescents, with an average age of 12.7 (range 10-16), in primary 5 and 6 were recruited to participate in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to either the control condition receiving “usual care” (such as food aid and scholastic materials) or the treatment condition receiving –in addition to the “usual care”, a peer mentorship program known as Suubi and Bridges Mentorship Program, as a component of a family economic strengthening intervention for AIDS-orphaned children. The mentorship program consists of nine 1-hour sessions on a range of topics including HIV/AIDS transmission, prevention and stigma. Bivariate analyses were conducted using data from baseline and 12 months post intervention, to ascertain the impact of the mentorship program on participants’ HIV/AIDS knowledge, beliefs and prevention attitudes.

Results: Preliminary findings indicate that following the mentorship program, program participants reported high levels of HIV/AIDS knowledge (Mean =20.1, SD =5.3) compared to non-program participants (Mean =19.3, SD =5.8, t =-2.5, p=. 01). Moreover, program participants exhibited more correct beliefs regarding HIV transmission (Mean =11.9, SD=1.8) than non-program participants (Mean =11.7, SD=1.8, t =-2.8, p=. 004). In addition, program participants exhibited high HIV/AIDS prevention attitudes (Mean =25.8, SD=4.2) compared to non-program participants (Mean =24.8, SD=4.7, t =-3.7, p=. 000).

Conclusion and Implications: Findings from this study point to the potential of a peer mentorship program in improving HIV/AIDS knowledge, beliefs and prevention attitudes among orphaned adolescents. Programs and policies that provide support to orphaned and vulnerable children in low resource communities may consider incorporating peer mentorship programs that provide correct, timely and age appropriate information about HIV transmission and prevention, that is relevant to their socio-cultural contexts, to help protect adolescents from exposure to HIV/AIDS.