Do challenges still exist amongst HIV/AIDS patients in managing their condition? A cross-sectional study of 297 participants in the Ethekwini Metro of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Background: South Africa has the largest HIV/AIDS epidemic globally and the largest anti-retroviral treatment (ART) programme in the world, yet HIV incidence is still chronically high in South Africa, especially in KwaZulu-Natal province (KZN). In light of this, a study was conducted to investigate the extent of challenges making the management of HIV/AIDS difficult in people living with HIV (PLWH) in KZN, South Africa.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out with 297 study participants living with HIV and receiving ART from three selected clinics in the Ethekwini Metro of KZN. A self-administered questionnaire assessed the challenges experienced by PLWH, their knowledge of their condition and their management thereof. One-way
frequency tables were used to descriptively assess participant responses. Associations between certain demographic characteristics and responses to HIV treatment management challenges were assessed using chi-square tests, with statistical significance set at p < 0.05.
Results: One-fifth of the participants (n = 60; 20.1%) were within the 18–23 age group, with over 53% (n = 158) having secondary level education. Some of the challenges cited included: difficulty in obtaining medication, mainly due to cost; side effects resulting in non-adherence; shame for taking medication in public (younger patients were more likely to feel ashamed for taking their medication in public [χ2 = 20.3, p = 0.009]); and non-disclosure of HIV-positive status to partners. We found a significant association between education and financial status and management of their condition [χ2 = 11.2, p = 0.011].
Conclusion: These findings that challenges still exist have implications for more robust programmes on education and counselling to address such challenges.
Keywords: financial costs, eThekwini Metro, knowledge, side effects, stigma, non-disclosure, challenges, HIV/AIDS