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Int J Nurs Stud. 2008 Dec;45(12):1757-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2008.06.006. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Social support and medication adherence in HIV disease in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa.



A supportive social environment is critical for those with HIV/AIDS. In KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa, antiretroviral therapy is available to some HIV-positive individuals. Antiretroviral adherence is an important issue for limiting HIV infection. Adherence to therapy may be linked to social support, particularly amidst the stigma prevalent in HIV.


The purpose of this study was to examine characteristics related to social support and antiretroviral medication adherence.


This cross-sectional, descriptive study explored the nature of the relationships among social support and other selected variables, including sociodemographic variables, quality of life, and adherence.


After ethical review board approval, the sample of HIV-infected individuals who received care in outpatient clinics were recruited and completed the self-report instruments.


The sample included English and/or isiZulu-speaking (n=149) individuals over the age of 18 years receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS. A total of 149 patients with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS agreed to participate and completed questionnaires after completing informed consent procedures. The study participants were recruited at four outpatient settings in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.


A descriptive, exploratory, cross-sectional design was utilized to explore the research questions: What are the characteristics of social support and the relationship to antiretroviral adherence in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa? Descriptive statistics and regression analyses were used to answer the research questions.


Data analyses indicated that social support scores on the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey were moderate (M=64.4; S.D.=14.7) among the study participants. The number of close friends and family were significantly correlated with a greater sense of social support. Despite this, the lowest scores on the quality-of-life measure using the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 item survey were reported on the Social Functioning Scale.


In summary, the study findings suggest that a supportive social network is essential for those living with HIV/AIDS. However, social functioning and quality of life amidst the stigma of living with HIV in South Africa may be a concern and require further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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