In order to determine what mental health problems South African children living with HIV
experience, interviews were conducted with HIV-positive children and their caregivers at a
paediatric HIV clinic in Tshwane. The interviews with the children included assessments that
focused on the children's self-esteem (Self-Description Questionnaire), experiences of anxiety
(RCMAS), and the coping strategies that they employed in daily living (Kidcope). The
interviews with caregivers included a questionnaire about demographic details, the Parental
Stress Index (PSI), and the Coping with Children's Negative Emotions Scale (CCNES).
Caregivers also completed the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), which assesses a range of
psychological problems in children. These results were compared to a sample of HIV-negative
children and their caregivers from the same community.
Although many children living with HIV-infection displayed clinical levels of somatic
and depressive symptoms, these did not differ at statistically significant rates from the HIVnegative
comparison group. Furthermore, children living with HIV were not found to experience
clinically significant levels of anxiety as assessed by the RCMAS. Children living with HIV
were found to employ more adaptive coping strategies than maladaptive coping strategies and
significantly fewer maladaptive coping strategies than HIV-uninfected children use. Children
living with HIV were also found to have significantly higher positive self-evaluations than HIVuninfected
The results of the caregiver assessments indicated that caregivers of children living with
HIV experience more distress in their relationship with their child and tend to engage less with
negative emotional displays of their children than do caregivers of HIV-uninfected children.