Last year, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in South Africa asked the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ Breakthrough ACTION project to help understand how to improve adherence to HIV medications among those who were struggling the most. Breakthrough ACTION recently shared recommendations designed to help people stay on treatment and re-engage with care if they have struggled to stay adherent.
Treatment is crucial to reducing the spread of HIV, since those who are able to reduce the amount of HIV in the body (viral load) to where it is undetectable are no longer able to transmit it to someone else. Failure to stay on treatment can also lead to drug resistance. Yet there are many barriers both to initiating treatment and adhering to it, from concerns about stigma to the challenges of taking a pill every day to the costs of getting to the clinic to pick up treatment.
Breakthrough ACTION found that intensive counseling, for example, should be provided at the outset of treatment to make sure a clear understanding of the benefits of adhering to treatment are in place from the start. Further, providers may need improved training to better understand the challenges of adherence that patients might face, while explaining both the dangers of defaulting and the implications of not using Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) consistently.Friday Letter Submission