Women and HIV: Exploring the relationship between HIV medication adherence and perceived social support among African American women

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Added



Background. HIV/AIDS is growing faster among African American women than any other segment of the population. The typical woman with HIV/AIDS is young, in her late twenties, economically challenged, and of childbearing age. Adherence to HIV therapies is critical if patients are to achieve and maintain virologic suppression. Of importance, adherence levels of ‚â•95% are required. Little is known about how low-income and minority women cope with HIV/AIDS. Yet in order to design effective interventions to ameliorate adherence, it is important to learn about the rationales that women use that support adherence. Additionally, it is imperative to identify the multiple sources of social influence that women use in structuring their adherence practices. Methods. Twenty HIV/AIDS infected women were recruited from an outpatient clinic. Data were collected through tape-recorded interviews using a semi-structured guide, journaling over a two-week period, and medical chart abstraction. In the journals, women wrote about the social facilitators and barriers to medication adherence. Findings. Results indicated that emotional support and trusting environments in which to discuss HIV/AIDS were unmet needs. Young children were perceived as a significant source of social support. Family was perceived as more supportive than friends with the exception of those actively using drugs. Further, age was associated with adherence. Among this cohort of women HIV/AIDS was perceived as a blessing or death sentence. Conclusions. Women who felt loved and cared for were more likely to be adherent. Supportive facilitators of adherence included: young children, spirituality, and supportive family members. HIV/AIDS self-disclosure appeared to increase health services utilization and medication adherence. Further, health beliefs were facilitators and barriers to medication adherence.






Public Health


Morgan State University