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AIDS Care. 2013 Aug;25(8):1018-25. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2012.748168. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

HIV treatment optimism and its predictors among young adults in southern Malawi.

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  • 1Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences, University of Colorado Denver Campus, CO, USA.


This study measures HIV treatment optimism and its predictors in a representative sample of young adults in southern Malawi. In 2010, 1275 women and 470 men between the ages of 16 and 26 were asked about their exposure to people on antiretroviral therapy (ART), sexual risk behavior, HIV status, and beliefs about ART. We used confirmatory factor analysis to develop a 4-item scale of the belief that HIV is a less serious health threat due to ART (reduced-severity optimism) and used a single measure to capture belief in the reduced infectivity of HIV due to ART (reduced-susceptibility optimism). Overall, respondents reported low levels of HIV treatment optimism. Being female and using ART were the largest predictors of both types of treatment optimism. We found a nonlinear relationship between exposure to people on ART and reduced-severity optimism. People who knew someone on ART but did not discuss it with them had lower levels of reduced-severity optimism than people who did not know anyone on ART and people who regularly discussed treatment with someone on ART. In multivariate regression models, HIV treatment optimism was positively associated with all measures of sexual risk behavior among men, but negatively associated with unprotected sex with a nonprimary partner among women. Our findings suggest that the spread of ART in Malawi has not led to widespread HIV treatment optimism. This may reflect the relatively recent spread of ART, the generalized nature of the HIV epidemic, or the fact that access to ART is complicated by structural limitations that delay treatment and limited availability of second-line medicines.

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