PloS one 2016 12 0811(12) e0168057 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0168057
The World Health Organization now recommends antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation for all HIV-infected individuals regardless of CD4 cell count or disease status. Understanding the facilitators and barriers to initiation of and adherence to ART is essential to successful scale-up of "universal" ART.
To investigate facilitators and barriers to ART initiation, we conducted 44 in-depth individual or couple interviews with 63 participants (33 participants with HIV and 30 without HIV) already enrolled in a prospective implementation study of oral antiretroviral-based prevention in Kisumu, Kenya between August and September 2014. A semi-structured interview guided discussions on: 1) perceived advantages and disadvantages of ART; 2) reasons for accepting or declining ART initiation; and 3) influence of prevention of transmission to partner or infant influencing ART use. Transcripts from the interviews were iteratively analyzed using inductive content analysis.
HIV-infected participants indicated that living a healthier life, preventing HIV transmission to others, and appearing "normal" or "healthy" again facilitated their initiation of ART. While appearing "normal" allowed these individuals to interact with their communities without stigmatization, they also perceived community opposition to their initiating ART, because appearing "normal" again prevented community members from easily identifying infected individuals in their community. Denial of diagnosis, disclosure stigma, perceived side-effects, and challenges in obtaining refills were additional barriers to ART initiation.
Community perceptions play an important role in both facilitating and inhibiting ART initiation. Perceived stigma, including perceived community opposition to widespread ART use, is an important barrier to ART initiation. Addressing such barriers, while capitalizing on facilitators, to ART initiation should be central to universal ART scale-up efforts.