Qualitative inquiry into adolescents’ experience of ethical challenges during enrollment and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Temeke Regional Referral Hospital, Tanzania

BMC Medical Ethics 23 (1):1-9 (2022)


BackgroundAdolescents living with human immunodeficiency virus experience challenges, including lack of involvement in their care as well nondisclosure of HIV status, which leads to poor adherence to antiretroviral therapy. Parents have authority over their children, but during adolescence there is an increasing desire for independence. The aim of the study was to explore adolescents’ experience of challenges identified by adolescents ages 10–19 years attending HIV care and treatment at Temeke Regional Referral Hospital in Tanzania. MethodsAn exploratory descriptive qualitative design was employed in the HIV Care and Treatment Centre in the Out-Patient Department at the Temeke Regional Referral Hospital in Tanzania with adolescents living with HIV who were 10–19 years of age. A total of 22 adolescents participated in semi-structured face-to-face interviews after parental consent and adolescent assent were obtained. Participants were interviewed about their participation in decisions to be tested for HIV and enrolled in the CTC, concerns surrounding disclosure of their HIV status to the adolescent or to others, stigma and discrimination, and the effect of these challenges on their adherence to medication. All interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim in Swahili, and back-translated to English. Data analysis included both inductive and deductive thematic analysis.ResultsQualitative themes identified included lack of participation in decisions about HIV testing, challenges to enrollment in care and treatment; issues around disclosure of HIV status, such as delays in disclosure to the adolescent and disclosure to other persons and benefits and harms of such disclosures; and factors supporting and interfering with adherence to ART, such as parental support, organizational support and problems, and self-stigmatization and shame.ConclusionLack of adolescents’ involvement in their care decision making and delayed disclosure of HIV status to the adolescent were identified concerns, leading to poor adherence to ART among adolescents. Disclosure to others, especially teachers, helped adolescents at school to take their medication properly. Disclosure to others led to stigma and discrimination for some adolescents. More research is needed to better understand the role of disclosure and its benefits and challenges for HIV-positive adolescents in Tanzania.

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