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African women in London with poor adherence feel that HIV treatment is difficult and unrelenting
Roger Pebody, 2016-04-04 10:00:00

A qualitative study with West African women living in London who have difficulties adhering to their HIV treatment has found that many think of HIV treatment as a ‘life sentence’ that they long to escape from. Internalised stigma about HIV is an undercurrent in many of these women’s accounts, according to an article published online ahead of print by AIDS and Behavior. But some women described an improvement in their feelings about the medication over time, talking about the factors that helped them with adherence.

Johanna Spiers and colleagues used a qualitative research method known as interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Rather than attempting to produce findings that are generalisable, this approach focuses on the particular experience of small samples of people in similar circumstances. It attempts to explore how people make sense of their experience, analysing the thoughts and emotions that interviewees ascribe to particular situations.

During interviews, the researchers emphasised that the participants were the experts on the topic of HIV treatment. They used open ended questions to encourage participants to speak candidly about their experiences.

Ten West African women who were taking HIV treatment in London were interviewed. Most were in their forties, were single or separated, had children, and had been diagnosed with HIV in the previous decade. Six were Nigerian and most had been living in London for more than a decade.

All had been selected because their clinicians had identified them as having current or previous problems with adherence to HIV treatment – they had discussed difficulties or had had spikes in their viral load. Nonetheless they were all still engaged with medical care.