In the previous study session, you were introduced to the main antiretroviral treatments (ARTs) used for people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Ethiopia. Remember that HIV treatment is a lifelong therapy that improves the quality of life of patients but does not completely eradicate HIV infection; that is, the virus persists within the infected person’s body. It is therefore essential that a person living with HIV takes their medication correctly. In this study session, we turn our attention to a critical aspect in HIV treatment and care — adherence. The purpose of this study session is to describe the key concepts of adherence to HIV care and treatment in the context of the services provided for PLHIV in Ethiopia. Here, you will learn why adherence to ART is important, what factors influence adherence from both a patient’s and the health facility’s perspective, and how you can provide advice to HIV patients in the community and at the health post to achieve optimal adherence.
We will then describe the common barriers to adherence to HIV care and treatment that PLHIV face. This will enable you to help patients to continue their follow-up at healthcare units in order to maintain and improve their health. The knowledge gained in this study session will also help you to assess and identify patients who adhere poorly to their treatment and encounter challenges in taking their drugs properly. Hence you will be able to offer them supportive advice in the form of follow-ups at the community and/or refer them to the nearest health centre to provide additional support and treatment services, and ultimately improve the outcome of patient care.