Factors impacting antiretroviral therapy adherence among human immunodeficiency virus-positive adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review
Objectives: Eighty-two percent of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–positive adolescents live in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Despite the availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART), adherence levels are suboptimal, leading to poor outcomes. This systematic review investigated factors impacting ART adherence among adolescents in SSA, including religious beliefs and intimate relationships. Methods: A systematic review was conducted between June and August 2016 using eight electronic databases, including Cochrane and PubMed. Published, ongoing and unpublished research, conducted in SSA from 2004 to 2016, was identified and thematic analysis was used to summarise findings. Results: Eleven studies from eight SSA countries, published in English between 2011 and 2016, reported on factors impacting ART adherence among adolescents living with HIV (ALHIV). Forty-four barriers and 29 facilitators to adherence were identified, representing a complex web of factors. The main barriers were stigma, ART side-effects, lack of assistance and forgetfulness. Facilitators included caregiver support, peer support groups and knowledge of HIV status. Conclusions: Stigma reflects difficult relations between ALHIV and their HIV-negative peers and adults. Most interventions target only those with HIV, suggesting a policy shift towards the wider community could be beneficial. Recommendations include engaging religious leaders and schools to change negative societal attitudes. Limitations of the review include the urban settings and recruitment of predominantly vertically infected participants in most included studies. Therefore, the findings cannot be extrapolated to ALHIV residing in rural locations or horizontally infected ALHIV, highlighting the need for further research in those areas.