High self-reported non-adherence to antiretroviral therapy amongst adolescents living with HIV in Malawi: Barriers and associated factors

Maria H. Kim, Alick C. Mazenga, Xiaoying Yu, Saeed Ahmed, Mary E. Paul, Peter N. Kazembe, Elaine J. Abrams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Introduction: Globally adolescents and young adults account for more than 40% of new HIV infections, and HIV-related deaths amongst adolescents increased by 50% from 2005 to 2012. Adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is critical to control viral replication and preserve health; however, there is a paucity of research on adherence amongst the growing population of adolescents living with HIV/AIDS (ALHIV) in Southern Africa. We examined levels of self-reported ART adherence, barriers to adherence, and factors associated with non-adherence amongst ALHIV in Malawi. Methods: Cross-sectional study of 519 ALHIV (12-18 years) attending two large HIV clinics in central and south-eastern Malawi. Participants self-reported missed doses (past week/month), barriers to adherence, and completed questionnaires on past traumatic events/stressors, disclosure, depression, substance use, treatment self-efficacy, and social support. Biomedical data were retrieved from existing medical records. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to identify factors independently associated with self-reported ART adherence (7 day recall). Results: The mean age of participants (SD) was 14.5 (2) years and 290 (56%) were female. Of the 519 participants, 153 (30%) reported having missed ART doses within the past week, and 234 (45%) in the past month. Commonly reported barriers to adherence included forgetting (39%), travel from home (14%), busy with other things (11%), feeling depressed/overwhelmed (6%), feeling stigmatized by people outside (5%) and within the home (3%). Factors found to be independently associated with missing a dose in the past week were drinking alcohol in the past month (OR 4.96, 95% CI [1.41-17.4]), missed clinic appointment in the past 6 months (OR 2.23, 95% CI [1.43-3.49]), witnessed or experienced violence in the home (OR 1.86, 95% CI [1.08-3.21]), and poor treatment self-efficacy (OR 1.55 95% CI [1.02-2.34]). Sex and age were not associated with adherence. Conclusions: In our study, nearly half of all ALHIV reported non-adherence to ART in the past month. Violence in the home or alcohol use in the past year as well as poor treatment self-efficacy were associated with worse adherence. Sub-optimal adherence is a major issue for ALHIV and compromise treatment outcomes. Programmes specifically tailored to address those challenges most pertinent to ALHIV may help improve adherence to ART.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21437
JournalJournal of the International AIDS Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adherence
  • Adolescents
  • Alcohol
  • Antiretroviral therapy
  • HIV
  • Self-efficacy
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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