Test but not treat: community members’ experiences with barriers and facilitators to universal antiretroviral therapy uptake in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Iwuji, Collins, Chimukuche, Rujeko Samanthia, Zuma, Thembelihle, Plazy, Melanie, Larmarange, Joseph, Orne-Gliemann, Joanna, Siedner, Mark, Shahmanesh, Maryam and Seeley, Janet (2020) Test but not treat: community members’ experiences with barriers and facilitators to universal antiretroviral therapy uptake in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. PLoS One, 15 (9). a0239513 1-14. ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

Introduction
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has revolutionised the care of HIV-positive individuals resulting in marked decreases in morbidity and mortality, and markedly reduced transmission to sexual partners. However, these benefits can only be realised if individuals are aware of their HIV-positive status, initiated and retained on suppressive lifelong ART. Framed using the socio-ecological model, the present study explores factors contributing to poor ART uptake among community members despite high acceptance of HIV-testing within a Treatment as Prevention (TasP) trial. In this paper we identify barriers and facilitators to treatment across different levels of the socio-ecological framework covering individual, community and health system components.

Methods
This research was embedded within a cluster-randomised trial (ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01509508) of HIV treatment as Prevention in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Data were collected between January 2013 and July 2014 from resident community members. Ten participants contributed to repeat in-depth interviews whilst 42 participants took part in repeat focus group discussions. Data from individual interviews and focus group discussions were triangulated using community walks to give insights into community members’ perception of the barriers and facilitators of ART uptake. We used thematic analysis guided by a socio-ecological framework to analyse participants’ narratives from both individual interviews and focus group discussions.

Results
Barriers and facilitators operating at the individual, community and health system levels influence ART uptake. Stigma was an over-arching barrier, across all three levels and expressed variably as fear of HIV disclosure, concerns about segregated HIV clinical services and negative community religious perceptions. Other barriers were individual (substance misuse, fear of ART side effects), community (alternative health beliefs). Facilitators cited by participants included individual (expectations of improved health and longer life expectancy following ART, single tablet regimens), community (availability of ART in the community through mobile trial facilities) and health system factors (fast and efficient service provided by friendly staff).

Discussion
We identified multiple barriers to achieving universal ART uptake. To enhance uptake in HIV care services, and achieve the full benefits of ART requires interventions that tackle persistent HIV stigma, and offer people with HIV respectful, convenient and efficient services. These interventions require evaluation in appropriately designed studies.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Global Health and Infection
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2020 14:58
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2020 14:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/93919

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