Exploring pre-and post-partum barriers to anti-retroviral therapy adherence for HIV-positive women initiated onto Option B Plus in Harare, Zimbabwe
Dube, Lorraine Tanyaradzwa
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Background: Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in sub-Saharan Africa, with the adult prevalence rate at 15%. The HIV prevalence is highest among adult women, at 18%. Mother-to-child transmission is the second leading cause of HIV in Zimbabwe. Therefore, provision of anti-retroviral therapy to pregnant women is important in reducing mother-to-child transmission. In 2012, the World Health Organisation formally adopted ART guidelines known as "Option B Plus", where triple therapy is provided to pregnant women for life, regardless of CD4 count. Zimbabwe subsequently adopted Option B Plus in September 2013. However, the success of ART depends on adherence to treatment. Lack of adherence to treatment leads to an increased risk of opportunistic infections and drug resistance, which is costly to treat. The aim of the study was to explore pre-and post-partum barriers to anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-positive women initiated onto Option B Plus in Harare, Zimbabwe. Methodology: Descriptive qualitative methods were used to explore the barriers to ART adherence for pre-and post-partum HIV-positive women initiated onto Option B Plus in Harare, Zimbabwe. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted in Shona with 20 non-adherent pre-and post-partum HIV-positive women and four key informants who are health workers from two identified health facilities (Edith Opperman Polyclinic and Kuwadzana Polyclinic). The interviews were recorded, transcribed and translated into English. The data was analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Health facility and individual factors emerged as barriers to adherence. Heavy workload and staff shortages, negative health worker attitude, cost of accessing health facilities, medicine shortages and detrimental health facility policies were all health facility related barriers identified by both key informants and the women. Individual barriers were related to difficulty in navigating the early days after diagnosis and treatment, stigma, intimate partner dynamics and religion. Conclusion: Despite free, decentralised provision of ART, barriers to adherence still exist. Many of the barriers have been articulated in previous research that focused on prevention of- mother-to-child transmission regimens, as well as ART regimens for the general population. The fact that the barriers remain suggests that the barriers are complex and addressing them will require tackling social constraints such as stigma and gender roles that pose a significant barrier to adherence.