Exploring the Cultural Context of HIV Stigma on Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence Among People Living with HIV/AIDS in Southwest Nigeria

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Abstract

This study explored the cultural context of HIV stigma on antiretroviral therapy adherence among people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in southwest Nigeria. Using purposive sampling, participants were recruited through a community-based organization. Consenting PLWHA participated in in-depth interviews and focus group discussions that were audio-taped. Using Deacon's conceptual framework of stigma, four opinion guides facilitated the interviews and discussions. Interviews and discussions were conducted in three languages, and lasted from 45 min to 2 h. A total of 35 women and men participated in the study. Participants ranged in age from 22 to 58 years, with an average of 4 years since clinical diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. All participants were receiving ART, and self-reported high adherence level. Using thematic analysis, three themes emerged: life before ART, life after ART, and strategies used in ART adherence. In describing their lives before ART, participants reported experiencing self, anticipated and enacted stigmas due to their sickly appearance from HIVrelated complications. After initiating ART, participants talked about friends and families “returning to them” and “apologizing for abandoning” them once they started “looking well.” In response to anticipated stigma, many reported sticking to their medications. Drawing from the cultural milieu as part of their strategies, participants discussed the use of plastic bags for medications and àkònpó, as ways of diverting attention from their use of many medications. Implications for ART program policies and stigma interventions were discussed, along with limitation of a short-term ART study on stigma since long-term use of ART can contribute to stigma by way of lipoatrophy as PLWHA age.

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