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AIDS Care. 2002 Apr;14(2):203-18.

Adherence discourse among African-American women taking HAART.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Low adherence is the single most important challenge to controlling HIV through the use of high acting anti-retrovirals (HAART). Non-adherence poses an immediate threat to individuals who develop resistant forms of the virus as well as a public health threat if those individuals pass on treatment-resistant forms of the virus. To understand the concerns and perceptions that promote or deter adherence to antiretroviral medication by HIV-positive African-American women, we conducted in-depth interviews with 15 African-American women taking HAART. We focused on the discourse and narratives women use in talking about their adherence practice. Discourse analysis was utilized to identify and explore the sources of influence used by these women in describing their adherence practice. Roughly a third of the sample fell into each of the three self-assessed adherence categories: always adherent, mostly adherent and somewhat adherent. Among the 'always adherent', 80% of the sources of influence cited supported adherence, while only 48% and 47% of the authoritative sources cited by women in the 'mostly' and 'somewhat' categories supported adherence. Each self-assessed adherence group was characterized by its own distinctive discourse style. Findings suggest that adherence to HAART among African-American HIV-positive women would be improved by identifying those influences undermining adherence. Focused study of the 'always adherent' types is recommended.

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