• Mental health of primary caregivers for children and adolescents with HIV/AIDS in Cuba Lessons from the Field

    Santiesteban, Yasel; Castro, Marta; Calvo, Marina

    Abstract in English:

    INTRODUCTION: An HIV diagnosis, like that of any another chronic illness, alters family dynamics. Although the whole family is affected, usually only one member is the primary caregiver of the sick person. Children and adolescents with HIV/AIDS need care according to their physical, psychological and social needs, requiring responsible caregivers who maintain adequate physical and mental health. OBJECTIVE: To describe general mental health characteristics of primary caregivers of Cuban children and adolescents from across the country diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at the Pedro Kourí Tropical Medicine Institute. METHODS: A descriptive study was carried out from November 2009 through March 2010. Twenty-six caregivers met inclusion criteria and 13 participated. A psychological assessment was made of each caregiver's mental health, including both externally evaluated and self reported factors associated with physical or psychological problems. Clinical interview and observation, psychiatric examination and various psychological tests were used. A simple descriptive analysis of caregiver characteristics, qualitative information and test results was made. RESULTS: Most caregivers were women, infected with HIV/AIDS themselves, unemployed and without a partner. They presented symptoms of anxiety but no clinical psychiatric diagnoses. The study group reported dissatisfaction with family functioning and partner relationships, as well as problems related to HIV and poor employment prospects. CONCLUSIONS: Caregivers studied described complex intra-and interpersonal life dynamics influenced by their HIV infection. Their mental health status, evaluated through a combination of objective and subjective factors reveals a complex reality, indicating the need for a more comprehensive and efficient approach to caregivers' health care, integrating attention to both physical and mental health.
Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba Oakland - California - United States
E-mail: editors@medicc.org