AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1467–1474 | Cite as

Reliability, Validity, and Factor Structure of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25: Population-Based Study of Persons Living with HIV in Rural Uganda

  • Scholastic Ashaba
  • Bernard Kakuhikire
  • Dagmar Vořechovská
  • Jessica M. Perkins
  • Christine E. Cooper-Vince
  • Samuel Maling
  • David R. Bangsberg
  • Alexander C. Tsai
Original Paper


Depression and anxiety are highly comorbid among people living with HIV (PLHIV), but few instruments for screening or measurement have been validated for use in sub-Saharan Africa. The objective of this study was to determine the reliability, validity, and factor structure of the 25-item Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL) in a population-based sample of PLHIV in rural Uganda. This study was nested within an ongoing population-based cohort of all residents living in Nyakabare Parish, Mbarara District, Uganda. All participants who identified as HIV-positive by self-report were included in this analysis. We performed parallel analysis on the scale items and estimated the internal consistency of the identified sub-scales using ordinal alpha. To assess construct validity we correlated the sub-scales with related constructs, including subjective well being (happiness), food insecurity, and health status. Of 1814 eligible adults in the population, 158 (8.7%) self-reported being HIV positive. The mean age was 41 years, and 68% were women. Mean HSCL-25 scores were higher among women compared with men (1.71 vs. 1.44; t = 3.6, P < 0.001). Parallel analysis revealed a three-factor structure that explained 83% of the variance: depression (7 items), anxiety (5 items), and somatic symptoms (7 items). The ordinal alpha statistics for the sub-scales ranged from 0.83 to 0.91. Depending on the sub-scale, between 27 and 41% of the sample met criteria for caseness. Strong evidence of construct validity was shown in the estimated correlations between sub-scale scores and happiness, food insecurity, and self-reported overall health. The HSCL-25 is a reliable and valid measure of mental health among PLHIV in rural Uganda. In cultural contexts where somatic complaints are commonly elicited when screening for symptoms of depression, it may be undesirable to exclude somatic items from depression symptom checklists administered to PLHIV.


HIV Depression Anxiety Screening Case-finding Uganda Sub-Saharan Africa 



We thank Peggy Bartek, Anna Baylor, Kate Bell, Ryan Carroll, Amy Q. McDonough, Nozmo F. B. Mukiibi, Rumbidzai Mushavi, and the HopeNet Study team, for their assistance with data collection, study administration, and infrastructure development; and Roger Hofmann of West Portal Software Corporation (San Francisco, California), for developing and customizing the Computer Assisted Survey Information Collection Builder software program. In addition to the named study authors, HopeNet Study team members who contributed to data collection and/or study administration during all or any part of the study were as follows: Phiona Ahereza, Owen Alleluya, Gwendoline Atuhiere, Patience Ayebare, Augustine Byamugisha, Patrick Gumisiriza, Clare Kamagara, Justus Kananura, Noel Kansiime, Allen Kiconco, Viola Kyokunda, Patrick Lukwago, Moran Mbabazi, Juliet Mercy, Elijah Musinguzi, Sarah Nabachwa, Elizabeth Namara, Immaculate Ninsiima, Mellon Tayebwa, and Specioza Twinamasiko.


The study was funded by Friends of a Healthy Uganda. The authors additionally acknowledge salary support through U.S. National Institutes of Health D43TW010128 (S.A.), T32MH093310 (C.E.C-V.), and K23MH096620 (A.C.T.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

We have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval for all study procedures was obtained from the Partners Human Research Committee, Massachusetts General Hospital; and the Institutional Review Committee, Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Consistent with national guidelines, we received clearance for the study from the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and from the Research Secretariat in the Office of the President.

Informed Consent

Written informed consent to participate was obtained. Study participants who were unable to write were permitted to indicate consent with a thumbprint.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scholastic Ashaba
    • 1
  • Bernard Kakuhikire
    • 1
  • Dagmar Vořechovská
    • 2
  • Jessica M. Perkins
    • 2
  • Christine E. Cooper-Vince
    • 2
    • 3
  • Samuel Maling
    • 1
  • David R. Bangsberg
    • 1
    • 4
  • Alexander C. Tsai
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Mbarara University Science and TechnologyMbararaUganda
  2. 2.Massachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  4. 4.Oregon Health Sciences University-Portland State University School of Public HealthPortlandUSA
  5. 5.Harvard Center for Population and Development StudiesCambridgeUSA

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