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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Antiretroviral treatment adherence among HIV patients in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Karl Peltzer12*, Natalie Friend-du Preez3, Shandir Ramlagan1 and Jane Anderson4

Author affiliations

1 Health Systems Research Unit, Social Aspect of HIV/AIDS and Health, Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa

2 Department of Psychology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

3 Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

4 Centre for the study of Sexual Health and HIV, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:111  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-111

Published: 5 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Successful antiretroviral treatment is dependent on sustaining high rates of adherence. In the southern African context, only a handful of studies (both quantitative and qualitative) have looked at the determinants including a health behaviour theory of adherence to antiretroviral therapy. The aim of this study is to assess factors including the information, motivation and behavioural skills model (IMB) contributing to antiretroviral (ARV) adherence six months after commencing ARVs at three public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods

Using systematic sampling, 735 HIV-positive patients were selected prior to commencing on ART from outpatient departments from three hospitals and followed-up at six months and interviewed with a questionnaire.

Results

A good proportion of patients were found to be adherent using both adherence instruments (visual analog scale = VAS 82.9%; Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group = AATCG 70.8%). After adjusting for significant socio-economic variables, both the VAS and the dose, schedule and food adherence indicator found levels of adherence amongst urban residents to be almost 3 times greater than that of rural residents. After adjusting for health-related variables, for both indicators better adherence was associated with low depression and poorer adherence was associated with poor environmental factors. Adjusted odds ratios for adherence when taking into account different behavioural variables were for both adherence indicators, discrimination experiences were associated with lower adherence, and higher scores in adherence information and behavioural skills were associated with higher adherence. For the VAS adherence indicator, higher social support scores were associated with higher adherence. For the dose, schedule and food adherence indicator, using herbal medicines for HIV was associated with lower adherence.

Conclusion

For the patients in this study, particularly those not living in urban areas, additional support may be needed to ensure patients are able to attend appointments or obtain their medications more easily. Adherence information and behavioural skills as part of the IMB model should be strengthened to improve adherence. Further psychological support is also required and patients' perceived need for ARTs should be routinely assessed.