Informing the measurement of wellbeing among young people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa for policy evaluations: a mixed-methods systematic review

Young people living with HIV (YPLHIV) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are at high risk of having a poor quality of life. Addressing wellbeing explicitly within HIV/AIDS policies could assist mitigation efforts. However, guidance on wellbeing measures to evaluate policies for YPLHIV is scarce. The aims of this mixed-methods review were to identify: i) key dimensions of wellbeing and ii) wellbeing measures that align to these dimensions among YPLHIV (15–24 years) in SSA. We searched six social science and medical databases, including grey literature. We included studies that examined correlates and lived experiences of wellbeing, among YPLHIV in SSA, from January 2000 to May 2019. Two reviewers independently screened abstracts and full texts and assessed methodological quality of included articles. We analysed quantitative and qualitative data using descriptive and meta-ethnographic approaches, respectively. Thereafter, we integrated findings using a framework approach. We identified 6527 citations. Of these, 10 quantitative and 30 qualitative studies were included. Being male, higher educational status, less stigma and more social support were likely correlates of wellbeing. Themes that shaped experiences suggestive of wellbeing were: 1) acceptance and belonging— stigma, social support; 2) coping; 3) standard of living. Our final synthesis found that the following dimensions potentially characterise wellbeing: self-acceptance, belonging, autonomy; positive relations, environmental mastery, purpose in life. Wellbeing for YPLHIV is multi-dimensional and relational. Relevant measures include the Personal Wellbeing Index, Ryff’s Psychological Wellbeing Scale and Mental Health Continuum Short Form. However, psychometric evaluations of these scales among YPLHIV in SSA are needed.