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Biomed Environ Sci. 2012 Feb;25(1):69-76. doi: 10.3967/0895-3988.2012.01.010.

A qualitative exploration of the role of antiretroviral therapy on Chinese rural life.

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School of Basic Medicine, Peking Union Medical College, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China.



To explore factors influencing the quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in rural China.


In-depth interviews with 20 PLHA were conducted in March 1999. Participants were recruited from the USAID-funded Longitudinal Enhanced Evaluation of ART Project, which tracks a cohort of eligible PLHA receiving treatment at five collaborating treatment centers in Guangxi Autonomous Region, China. An interview guide (semi-structured with open-ended questions) was developed to provide a qualitative examination of the quality of life of PLHA.


Participants identified that ART affects physical health, including the experience of pain, side effects, and opportunistic infections. ART imposes lifestyle constraints such as reduced mobility due to drug procurement, and social restrictions due to the daily drug regimen. Participants discussed the psychological burden of taking drugs, and the fear of accidental transmission to others, or having their disease status known by others, as well as optimistic feelings about their future due to ART. ART poses a significant drain on individual's economic resources due to related medical costs, and inability to seek seasonal migrant labor due to reduced mobility.


While China's national free ART program improved the physical health of those surveyed, their social and economic needs were left unaddressed. To improve life outcomes for PLHA, and by extension, the wider Chinese population, quality of life measures should be included when evaluating the success of the ART program.

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