Antiretroviral adherence among HIV+ adolescents in Southern Africa

This study addresses a major research gap by identifying psychosocial, family and service mechanisms to improve adherence to antiretroviral medication amongst adolescents in Southern Africa. 

It is a collaboration with UNICEF and the Departments of Health, Social Development and Basic Education of the South African Government, with Pediatric AIDS Treatment for Africa. 

The study tracks 575 adolescents through the health system over three years, using longitudinal adolescent-friendly surveys, alongside biomedical measures, and qualitative research. It aims to understand the psychological, social, health service and family factors that affect adherence, and so inform evidence-based interventions for an expanding and highly vulnerable group.

Context

1.2 million adolescents in Southern Africa are living with HIV. Antiretroviral medication gives an opportunity for survival and growing into adulthood, but requires careful daily adherence of 80-95%. Low adherence can lead to illness and death. In addition the virus develops resistance to the medication, and as adolescents become sexually active they can pass on drug-resistant HIV. Only around 20% of adolescents manage to adhere to their medication.