Creative arts hub Zimbabwe
In a partnership between King’s College London, a Zimbabwean government health clinic, performing artists, mental health practitioners, the Zvandiri charity and young adult HIV service users, Creative Arts Hub Zimbabwe used a combination of music, movement, drama and meditation to encourage self-expression andconnectedness for young people living with HIV.
This four-month programme in Zimbabwe, led by Dr Melanie Abas, Reader in Global Mental Health at King’s, and Zimbabwean musician Tariro neGitare, was comprised of 14 sessions each lasting two hours and included music, meditation, movement, drama, art and poetry, with optional counselling also available. The sessions aimed to improve the emotional and physical wellbeing and resilience of a group of 20 young people aged 17-25. The young people, who were referred by the Parirenyatwa Hospital or Zimbabwe’s Zvandiri HIV charity, were all sub-optimally engaged in HIV care, with most having high HIV viral loads and associated emotional stress
For people living with HIV, it is critical to adhere to HIV medication on a daily basis to suppress the virus and enable healthy survival. Young adolescents and children have a lower chance of adhering well to HIV medication than adults. Depression and other psychosocial difficulties are some of the most important reasons for this, but in low-income countries there is little access to formal therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or antidepressant medication. Midway through the programme, clinical psychologist Tarisai Bere introduced ‘Nzira Itsva’ adherence counselling to encourage the young people to problem solve barriers to adherence.
A delegation of students and tutors from London’s BRIT School travelled to support the programme and worked with Zimbabwean artists and the young people to create a dance workshop and a film about the project. The programme culminated in a concert that displayed the creative work the young people had developed during the sessions.
Throughout the programme there was an attendance rate of more than 80 per cent and on its completion the young people reported that the group had been ‘a lifeline’. The young people who the project team had blood test results for before and after the programme showed that viral suppression increased from 22 per cent at baseline to a remarkable 65 per cent at follow-up.
Creative Arts Hub Zimbabwe: improving psychological wellbeing for adolescents living with HIV at high-risk of poor health outcomes in Zimbabwe is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Department of Health Service & Population Research and Tariro NeGitare of Magitare Trust. It was supported by the university's Culture team.