African Journal of AIDS and HIV Research

African Journal of AIDS and HIV Research ISSN 2326-2691 Vol. 7 (2), pp. 001-011, February, 2019. © International Scholars Journals

Full Length Research Paper

Sustaining social support for lifelong HIV treatment: Practices of patients on antiretroviral therapy in Uganda                                              

Esther K. Nanfuka1*, David Kyaddondo1, Sarah N. Ssali2 and Narathius Asingwire1

1Department of Social Work and Social Administration, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

2School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

Accepted 19 January, 2019 


Social support is recognized as a critical resource in promoting adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-poor settings. However, supporter burn-out and stigma may constrain access to social support in the long-term. Little is written about how ART clients overcome these barriers to continue accessing support for lifelong treatment. Therefore, this article examines practices that enable HIV patients in a resource-poor setting to overcome the constraints of stigma and burn-out to continue accessing treatment support. The article is based on data from an ethnographic study of 50 patients enrolled on ART at two treatment sites. Fifteen of these patients were followed-up for six months. The main methods of data collection included in-depth interviews and participant observation. Dependent patients overcame the constraints of stigma and burn-out through three main practices: regulating the frequency of requests for assistance, using secrecy and lies, and continuously reconstituting the treatment support group. The study concludes that stigma and burn-out are serious threats to sustaining social support and concomitant adherence to lifelong ART. Integration of mechanisms for empowering patients to manage burn-out and stigma in HIV service delivery may improve prospects for sustained ART adherence in resource-poor settings.

Key words: Antiretroviral therapy, burn-out, people living with HIV, social support, stigma, therapy management group.