Principal Investigator: Fred M. Ssewamala, PhD

Project Team Members: Mary McKay, PhD; Claude Mellins, PhD; Irwin Garfinkel, PhD; Proscovia Nabunya, PhD; Torsten Neilands, PhD; Ozge Sensoy Bahar, PhD 

Field Coordinator: Flavia Namuwonge 

Research Collaborators: Abel Mwebembezi (Reach the Youth-Uganda), Fr. Kato Bakulu (Masaka Diocese), Gertrude Nakigozi (Rakai Health Sciences Program)

Suubi4Her is a 5-year longitudinal study (2017-2022) funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It examines the impact and cost associated with Suubi (hope) for Girls (hereafter, Suubi4Her), which is an innovative combination intervention that aims to prevent HIV risk behavior in communities heavily affected by poverty and HIV/AIDS in Southern Uganda. This is done through economic empowerment and promotion of behavioral health. This study combines two evidence-based approaches:

1. a youth monetary savings program that supports adolescent girls in secondary school education and family small-business/microenterprises development

2. a 16 session manualized MFG intervention that strengthens family relationships to address mental health challenges which frequently accompany adolescent girls’ transition to adulthood.

mHealth Component

This study seeks to examine access and utilization of mobile phones (technology) and acceptability of mhealth interventions among adolescent girls. Specifically, the study assesses behavioral health and psychosocial functioning, cell phone access, as well as beliefs and attitudes about tobacco, alcohol, substance use, sexual decision-making, and HIV-risk factors.

Qualitative Component

With this additional support, the team will qualitatively examine participants’ experiences with the intervention and explore multi-level factors that may have impacted participants’ observable behaviors and decision-making in regards to savings, mental health, and sexual risk-taking. The team will also interview the multiple family group facilitators and school head teachers in treatment schools to examine factors that may influence system-level sustainability.

Diversity Supplement

ICHAD’s Joelynn Muwanga received an administrative diversity supplement from the National Institute of Mental Health under the ongoing Suubi4Her study. This new supplement will assess the impact of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and attitudes on HIV testing behavior and adherence among the study participants. The study findings will enrich extant literature about the attitudes and perceptions of adolescent girls (an HIV vulnerable population) towards ART and provide insight which will be useful in informing the development of interventions, diagnosis, treatment and management of HIV, including adherence to ART.

SUUBI4Her Publications

Nabunya, P., Damulira, C., Byansi, W., Muwanga, J., Sensoy Bahar, O., Namuwonge, F., Ighofose, E., Brathwaite, R., Tumwesige, W., & Ssewamala, F. M. (2020). Prevalence and correlates of depressive symptoms among high school adolescent girls in southern Uganda. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1792. BMC Public Health

Ssewamala, F. M., Bermudez, L. G., Neilands, T. B., Mellins, C. A., McKay, M. M., Garfinkel, I., … & Damulira, C. (2018). Suubi4Her: A study protocol to examine the impact and cost associated with a combination intervention to prevent HIV risk behavior and improve mental health functioning among adolescent girls in Uganda. BMC Public Health18(1), 693. BMC Public Health