Adherence in HIV-positive women entering antenatal care on antiretroviral therapy: A cross-sectional study

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Proper implementation of and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is significantly associated with better health and longer life in HIV-positive individuals. Consistent, adequate adherence has been shown to lead to a suppressed viral load. A low viral load delays the virus's progression and leads to better health outcomes for the individual. Adequate adherence is especially important among HIV-positive pregnant women. How well a woman adheres to her ART can not only improve her health during pregnancy but can protect the infant from HIV by preventing in utero transmission of the virus. Continuing ART protects against transmission via breastmilk later in the infant's life. While the benefits of good adherence are undeniable, the definition of adequate adherence varies widely in the literature. Taking 80 to 100% of pills as prescribed is commonly used as the threshold for adequate adherence levels. Various methods exist for measuring ART adherence, and while some are more reliable than others, there is no gold standard. This ambiguity in ART research extends to pregnant women, with even less known about HIV infected women established already on ART who then become pregnant. Changes in treatment protocols in the Western Cape and improvement of ART delivery throughout South Africa have resulted in this group of long-term users growing in size. Without more research into the barriers of ART adherence in these women, efforts to scale up treatment programs and to end mother to child transmission of HIV will ultimately fail. This dissertation is an exploration of these ideas. It begins to fill the gap in current knowledge related to ART compliance in pregnant women, and gives new insights into how specific barriers to adherence can adversely affect this specific group of established ART users.

Includes bibliographical references