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AHEAD feasibility trial assessed the feasibility and acceptability of an 8-session group drumming programme aiming to improve executive function, depression and anxiety symptoms, and perceived social support in adolescents living with HIV in a rural low-income South African setting. Sixty-eight 12- to 19-year-old adolescents participated. They were individually randomised. The intervention arm (n = 34) received weekly hour-long group drumming sessions. Controls (n = 34) received no intervention. Feasibility and acceptability were assessed using rates of: enrolment; retention; attendance; logistical problems; adolescent-reported acceptability. Secondary measures included: five Oxford Cognitive Screen-Executive Function (OCS-EF) tasks; two Rapid Assessment of Cognitive and Emotional Regulation (RACER) tasks; the Self-Reporting Questionnaire-20 (SRQ-20) measuring depression and anxiety symptoms; the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). All feasibility criteria were within green progression limits. Enrolment, retention, and acceptability were high. There was a positive effect on adolescent depressed mood with signal for a working memory effect. There were no significant effects on executive function or socio-emotional scales. Qualitative findings suggested socio-emotional benefits including: group belonging; decreased internalised stigma; improved mood; decreased anxiety. Group drumming is a feasible and acceptable intervention amongst adolescents living with HIV in rural South Africa. A full-scale trial is recommended.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date



1 - 19


HIV, adolescents, drumming, executive function, mental health, trial