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Patient-reported barriers and facilitators to antiretroviral adherence in sub-Saharan Africa

Croome, Natasha; Ahluwalia, Monisha; Hughes, Lyndsay D.; Abas, Melanie

doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000001416
Epidemiology and Social

Objective: The aim of this study was to identify the range and frequency of patient-reported barriers and facilitators to antiretroviral treatment (ART) adherence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Design: Studies from 2005 to 2016 were identified by searching 10 electronic databases and through additional hand and web-searching.

Methods: Inclusion criteria were HIV-positive adults taking ART based in any SSA country, qualitative study or quantitative survey and included at least one patient-reported barrier or facilitator to ART adherence. Exclusion criteria were only including data from treatment-naive patients initiating ART, only single-dose treatment, participants residing outside of SSA and reviews.

Results: After screening 11 283 records, 154 studies (161 papers) were included in this review. Forty-three barriers and 30 facilitators were reported across 24 SSA countries. The most frequently identified barriers across studies were forgetting (n = 76), lack of access to adequate food (n = 72), stigma and discrimination (n = 68), side effects (n = 67) and being outside the house or travelling (n = 60). The most frequently identified facilitators across studies were social support (n = 60), reminders (n = 55), feeling better or healthier after taking ART (n = 35), disclosing their HIV status (n = 26) and having a good relationship with a health provider (n = 22).

Conclusion: This review addresses the gap in knowledge by collating all the patient-reported barriers and facilitators to ART adherence in SSA. Current barriers measures need to be adapted or new tools developed to include the wide variety of factors identified. The factors that have the greatest impact need to be isolated so interventions are developed that reduce the barriers and enhance the facilitators.

aCentre for Global Mental Health, Health Service and Population Research

bHealth Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, UK.

Correspondence to Natasha Croome, King's College London, London, SE5 8AF, UK. E-mail:;

Received 9 August, 2016

Revised 11 January, 2017

Accepted 16 January, 2017

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