Women living with HIV who misuse alcohol and live in economically disadvantaged settings in South Africa experience a multitude of contextual barriers as they navigate the HIV care continuum. The Women's Health CoOp (WHC), a brief, woman-focused, behavioural, evidence-based intervention, has been shown to be effective in reducing heavy drinking and improving HIV-related outcomes among this key population. However, these women face other broader socioecological barriers to antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence.
The WHC was implemented in a modified, stepped-wedge implementation science trial in public health clinics and substance use treatment programmes in Cape Town, South Africa. A qualitative substudy was conducted to explore barriers to HIV treatment adherence among women enrolled in this trial. Eight focus group discussions were conducted with 69 participants 6 months after completion of the WHC workshops. Focus groups were audio-recorded (with consent), transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic approach.
The mean age of the participants was 33 years and the mean self-reported number of drinks per day was 13. The main contextual factors influencing participants’ ART adherence were intrapersonal-level factors (substance use, financial constraints, food insecurity; community-level factors (anticipated and enacted stigma, community violence) and institutional-level factors (patient–provider relationships, health facility barriers, environmental stigma).
Comprehensive interventions addressing the contextual barriers and unique challenges faced by women who misuse alcohol in low-resource settings that intersect with HIV treatment nonadherence should be implemented in tandem with successful biobehavioural HIV interventions for long-term effectiveness and sustainability.
Patient or Public Contribution
Our South African community collaborative board has been involved throughout this study; participants and clinic staff voices have been essential in our interpretation of these findings.
‘We have goals but [it is difficult]’. Barriers to antiretroviral therapy adherence among women using alcohol and other drugs living with HIV in South Africa