Adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) at a tertiary hospital in Francistown, Botswana
Selape-Kebuang, Bongani Lebo
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Botswana is experiencing high levels of HIV prevalence rate at 16.9% among the general population, 4.5% among adolescents aged 10-14 and 4.7% among adolescents aged 14-19. Adolescents are in a critically stage between childhood and adulthood and undergo a lot of developmental changes physically, sychologically and emotionally. The scourge of HIV/AIDS has also brought with it multiple challenges to adolescents as those who are HIV positive have to adhere to all the health requirements of being HIV positive and at the same time being pressurised by the societal expectations. Stigmatisation and discrimination are experienced as barriers against the fight towards HIV which is seen a major factor among adolescents. The aim of the study was to explore and describe adolescents’ perceptions and experiences of anti-retroviral therapy at a tertiary hospital in Francistown, Botswana. The study followed a qualitative research approach with an exploratory descriptive research design. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. Participants were school going adolescents aged between 13 and 19 years, who are on antiretroviral therapy and going for reviews at a tertiary hospital in Francistown, Botswana. Data were gathered though face to face semi structured interviews with each of the 24 participants. Data were analysed thematically. The following four themes emerged during the analysis: i. “ARVs control but don’t cure”; ii. “Why did it happen to me?-the reality of using ARVs”; iii. “I don’t want to take them for the rest of my life”; and iv. “No man is an island”, which addressed the research objectives. The findings led to the conclusion that, despite the fact that HIV has been around for over two decades and ARVs has been around for more than a decade, adolescents living with HIV still faces challenges such as stigmatisation due to social as well as clinical factors and adjusting to a lifelong treatment which made it difficult for them to adhere to their treatment. However, adolescents are happy as they are living a healthy and a fruitful life as a result of the ARVs. Ethical considerations were adhered too. Furthermore the findings of the study could assist the Ministries of Health, Education, Local Government and Rural Development to address these challenges experienced by the adolescents in the development of social programmes to improve the livelihood of the adolescents living with HIV/AIDS.