Social support and confidence predict medication adherence for AIDS patients

AIDS patients are more likely to follow newer, more complex medication schedules if they are confident they can do so and if they possess a network of friends and others to support them, researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin have found.

"Our findings suggest that patients with limited emotional support should receive mental health and support services not only to improve psychological functioning but also, potentially, to enhance treatment adherence," said lead author Sheryl L. Catz, PhD. "Interventions that enhance a person's perceived confidence in adhering to treatment regimens also seem particularly important, especially at the time when the therapy is initiated."

The researchers interviewed 72 AIDS patients who were taking three or more antiretroviral medications, including a protease inhibitor, as part of a "highly active antiretroviral therapy" (HAART) regimen. These regimenswhich sometimes require that 20 or more pills be taken daily in specific sequencescan reduce HIV to undetectable levels and decrease death rates from AIDS. But slight or occasional deviations from the prescribed routine can allow the virus to rebound and become resistant to antiretroviral drugs.

Catz and colleagues report that 18 percent of the patients were "nonadherent" -- defined as having missed at least one dose of the HAART regimen per week. Nonadherent patients were more depressed than others, reported more side effects, had lower confidence in their ability to follow the medication routine, and reported less support from friends and others. When the researchers examined which of these factors independently predicted adherence, only patients1 confidence and their perceptions of social support remained significant.

Nonadherent patients also were more likely than adherent patients to report certain barriers to taking the medications, including that the treatment reminded them of their HIV status, that the instructions were too complicate

Contact: Sheryl L. Catz, PhD
Center for the Advancement of Health

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