Background: Sustaining antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence requires accurate, consistent monitoring, a particular challenge for low-income countries. The optimal strategy to measure pediatric adherence remains unclear.
Objective: To conduct a systematic review of pediatric ART adherence measurement techniques, adherence estimates, and clinical correlates in low- and middle-income countries to inform ART adherence monitoring.
Methods: We searched online bibliographic databases, including MEDLINE and EMBASE, using systematic criteria. Two reviewers selected all descriptive or interventional studies involving nonpregnant, HIV-positive individuals ≤18 years old that measured ART adherence in low- or middle-income countries as defined by World Bank criteria. Data were extracted regarding sample characteristics, study setting, measurement strategy, adherence estimate, and adherence correlates.
Results: The search yielded 1566 titles, of which 17 met selection criteria. Adherence measurement strategies included self- or proxy-report measures (14 studies), pill counts (4 studies), pharmacy records, drug levels, clinic adherence, and directly observed therapy (1 study each). The self- or proxy-report measures were heterogeneous, and few employed validation strategies. Caregiver-reported adherence was generally higher than self-report estimates. Pill counts revealed lower adherence estimates. Estimates of ART adherence ranged from 49% to 100%, with 76% of articles reporting >75% adherence. Factors related to family structure, socioeconomic status, disclosure, and medication regimen were all significantly associated with ART adherence.
Conclusions: Pediatric HIV care programs in low- and middle-income countries use heterogeneous methods to measure ART adherence. Adherence estimates vary substantially, but most studies from low- and middle-income countries report >75% adherence, whereas most studies from high-income countries report <75% adherence.