Sauti ya Vijana, or SYV for short, means “The Voice of Youth” in Swahili. The intervention was named by youth living with HIV who helped design this mental health intervention to optimally address the mental health challenges young people living with HIV face. SYV is based on a client-centered approach, delivered in a group-based setting by young adult group leaders, and designed to provide an empathic and educational environment to promote new coping strategies, self-efficacy, and resilience without judgement or confrontation.
To reach a large number of youth while building on the communal aspect of Tanzanian culture and the importance of peers, we designed SYV as a group-based mental health and life skills intervention. SYV includes 10 group sessions (two sessions held jointly with caregivers) lasting approximately 90 minutes and two individual sessions delivered by trained young adult group leaders who use a manualized protocol that is designed to scale in low resource settings. The intervention is applied to the Social Action Theory (SAT), a theoretical framework used to determine factors that influence health behavior. We strategically use components of evidence-based treatment models to influence cognitive, self, and social regulation to improve mental and behavioral health outcomes. SYV integrates components of three psychotherapies: Trauma-Informed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which in the developing brain is thought to promote cognitive restructuring and influence connectivity from the amygdala towards the prefrontal cortex, an area associated with planned behavior and reasoned decision-making; Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), which is designed to improve social relationships, especially as support for traumatic experiences and life transitions; and Motivational Interviewing (MI). During this pivotal developmental period when critical foundations of self and social regulation are realized, SYV may help prevent or reduce the severity of psychopathology, thereby improving behavioral health outcomes as well.