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The Impact of Support Groups for People Living with HIV on Clinical Outcomes: a systematic review of the literature
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    Support groups for people living with HIV (PLHIV) are integrated into Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) care and treatment programs as a modality for increasing patient literacy and as an intervention to address the psychosocial needs of patients. However, the impact of support groups on key health outcomes has not been fully determined.


    We searched electronic databases from January 1995 through May 2014 and reviewed relevant literature on the impact of support groups on mortality, morbidity, retention in HIV care, quality of life, and ongoing HIV transmission, as well as their cost effectiveness.


    Of 1809 citations identified, 20 met inclusion criteria. One reported on mortality, seven on morbidity, five on retention in care, seven on quality of life, and seven on ongoing HIV transmission. Eighteen (90%) of the articles reported largely positive results on the impact of support group interventions on key outcomes. Support groups were associated with reduced mortality and morbidity, increased retention in care and improved quality of life. Due to study limitations, the overall quality of evidence was rated as fair for mortality, morbidity, retention in care, and quality of life, and poor for HIV transmission.


    Implementing support groups as an intervention is expected to have a high impact on morbidity and retention in care and a moderate impact on mortality and quality of life of PLHIV. Support groups improve disclosure with potential prevention benefits but the impact on ongoing transmission is uncertain. It is unclear if this intervention is cost-effective given the paucity of studies in this area.

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