‘Not Until I'm Absolutely Half-Dead and Have To:’ Accounting for Non-Use of Antiretroviral Therapy in Semi-Structured Interviews with People Living with HIV in Australia

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Abstract

Current debates regarding the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to promote both individual- and populationlevel health benefits underscore the importance of understanding why a subpopulation of people with diagnosed HIV and access to treatment choose not to use it. Semi-structured interviews were conducted between 2012 and 2014 with 27 people living with HIV in Australia who were not using ART at the time of interview. Analytic triangulation permitted an appreciation of not only the varied personal reasons for non-use of treatment, but also underlying views on HIV treatment, and the ideal conditions imagined necessary for treatment initiation. Policy goals to increase the number of people with HIV using ART must recognize the diverse explanations for nonuse of ART, which include concerns about the various impacts of committing to lifelong pharmaceutical treatment use. Our research identified distinctive subgroups among people who are not using antiretroviral therapy, with a range of individual and social needs that may affect treatment decisions. These findings challenge assumptions about treatment non-use in resource-rich settings, revealing persistent consumer fears about the potent and unknown effects of HIV medications that deserve greater recognition in policy debate on treatment uptake.

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