Original Research

Barriers to adherence to antiretroviral treatment in a regional hospital in Vredenburg, Western Cape, South Africa

Ivo N. Azia, Ferdinand C. Mukumbang, Brian van Wyk
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 17, No 1 | a476 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v17i1.476 | © 2016 Ivo N. Azia, Ferdinand C. Mukumbang, Brian van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 March 2016 | Published: 30 September 2016

About the author(s)

Ivo N. Azia, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Ferdinand C. Mukumbang, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Brian van Wyk, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa


Background: South Africa currently runs the largest public antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme in the world, with over 80% of people living with HIV and/or AIDS on ART. However, in order to appreciate the benefits of using ART, patients are subject to uncompromising and long-term commitments of taking at least 95% of their treatment as prescribed. Evidence shows that this level of adherence is seldom achieved because of a multilevel and sometimes interwoven myriad of factors.

Objective: We described the challenges faced by patients on ART in Vredenburg with regard to ART adherence.

Methods: A descriptive qualitative research design was used. Eighteen non-adhering patients on ART in the Vredenburg regional hospital were purposefully selected. Using a semistructured interview guide, we conducted in-depth interviews with the study participants in their mother tongue (Afrikaans). The interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and translated into English. The data were analysed manually using the thematic content analysis method.

Results: Stigma, disclosure, unemployment, lack of transport, insufficient feeding, disability grants and alternative forms of therapy were identified as major barriers to adherence, whereas inadequate follow-ups and lack of patient confidentiality came under major criticisms from the patients.

Conclusion: Interventions to address poverty, stigma, discrimination and disclosure should be integrated with group-based ART adherence models in Vredenburg while further quantitative investigations should be carried out to quantify the extent to which these factors impede adherence in the community.


Adherence; antiretroviral therapy; non-adherence


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