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AIDS Educ Prev. 2002 Aug;14(4):318-29.

Secret pills: HIV-positive patients' experiences taking antiretroviral therapy in North Carolina.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, USA.


Understanding the barriers to antiretroviral adherence is a critical step in improving the effectiveness of HIV treatment and saving lives. We sought to assess, qualitatively, the experiences of HIV-positive persons taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) in North Carolina. Twenty-four people participated in one of six focus groups. A structured interview script included three questions (two open-ended) and eight probes. Each discussion was taped, transcribed, and content-analyzed. Three distinct themes emerged. First, many participants believed that taking ART was lifesaving but missed doses because they feared that taking them in public would reveal their HIV status. Second, as a result, participants often found it difficult to integrate their regimens into the most basic daily activities. Finally, participants stressed the importance of having open, ongoing dialogues about their treatment plans and privacy needs with a wide range of health care workers. Multidimensional, tailored interventions may help persons living with HIV overcome the stigma and other complex barriers they face in taking antiretroviral therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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