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Swiss Med Wkly. 2010 May 1;140(17-18):247-53. doi: smw-12834.

Coping with an HIV infection. A multicenter qualitative survey on HIV positive adolescents' perceptions of their disease, therapeutic adherence and treatment.

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Research Group on Adolescent Health, Institute for Social & Preventive Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.


HIV-positive adolescents face a number of challenges in dealing with their disease and its treatment. In this qualitative study, twenty-nine HIV-positive adolescents aged 13 to 20 years (22 girls), who live in Switzerland, were asked, in a semi-structured interview (duration of 40-110 minutes), to describe their perceptions and experiences with the disease itself and with therapeutic adherence. While younger adolescents most often thought of their disease as fate, older adolescents usually knew that they had received it through vertical transmission, although the topic appeared to be particularly difficult to discuss for those living with their HIV-positive mothers. Based on their attending physician's assessment, 18 subjects were judged highly adherent, 4 fairly and 7 poorly adherent. High adherence appeared linked with adequate psychological adjustment and effective coping mechanisms, as well as with the discussion and adoption of explicit medication-taking strategies. The setting and organisation of health care teams should allow for ongoing discussions with HIV-positive adolescents that focus on their perceptions of their disease, how they cope with it and with the treatment, and how they could improve their adherence.

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