"It is not that I forget, it's just that I don't want other people to know": barriers to and strategies for adherence to antiretroviral therapy among HIV patients in Northern Vietnam

Vu Van Tam, Anastasia Pharris, Anna Thorson, Tobias Alfven, Mattias Larsson
AIDS Care 2011, 23 (2): 139-45
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) started to become more widely available in Vietnam in 2005. However, up to now, very little is known about factors influencing ART adherence among people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Vietnam. This qualitative study aimed to describe factors influencing ART adherence among PLHIV in a northern province in Vietnam, and to explore possibilities of home delivery of ART. Forty-eight participants (36 men and 12 women), including patients on ART and their relatives, were divided in seven focus group discussions. The topics discussed included: adherence obstacles encountered during ART, methods patients used to enhance adherence, treatment support structures, and attitudes toward home delivery of ART. All interviews were audio-recorded, then transcribed in Vietnamese. Manual manifest and latent content analysis was applied for data analysis in order to elucidate the presence of, meaning of, and relationships between concepts in the text. Stigma was identified as a strong barrier to ART adherence, as patients feared that taking medications in the presence of other persons would lead to suspicion or inadvertent disclosure of their HIV status. In addition to desires for non-disclosure influencing PLHIV's adherence, it also shaped their attitudes toward opting for more confidential ways of receiving ART support and care. Home delivery of ART medications was seen as undesirable by participants, who feared that it might increase social stigmatization. Participants wished for more community-based support, preferably from PLHIV who had received sufficient training. Based on the results of this study, an intervention strategy using PLHIV as community-based adherence supporters is currently being evaluated in a randomized controlled trial intervention, including 640 patients in Quang Ninh, Vietnam.

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