Exploring the barriers to the antiretroviral therapy adherence among people living with HIV in Bangladesh: A qualitative approach

Fariha Hossain, Mahmudul Hasan, Nilufar Begum, Devi Mohan, Sharuna Verghis, Nowrozy Kamar Jahan

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Introduction Since the evolution of highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART), a near-perfect ART adherence level (>95%) is needed to control viral suppression. Non-adherence to treatment may lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and drug resistance. Though the Bangladesh government provides free treatment and counselling services to people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV), only 22% of the identified PLHIV continue treatment. Therefore, this study aims to explore the barriers that obstruct the Bangladeshi PLHIV to ensure ART adherence. Methods We conducted a qualitative study in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and recruited the sensitive study population following non-probability, mainly purposive sampling from a community-based registered organization for PLHIV. We conducted the in-depth interview using a semi-structured guideline with 15 consented respondents. We transcribed the audio-recorded interviews in the local language (Bangla) and then translated those into English for data analysis. During the data extraction process, the lead and corresponding authors independently extracted raw data to generate different themes and sub-themes and invited other authors to contribute when they could not solve any discrepancies. Results The study identified three significant categories of barriers at the individual, community, and institutional levels that negatively interfered with ART adherence. The most dominant barriers were discrimination and rejection related to stigma, as almost all participants mentioned these barriers. Stigmatizing attitudes and the discriminatory act of the community people and healthcare providers critically affected their treatment adherence. Other leading barriers were improper inventory management of ART-related medicines and CD4 tests and lack of proper counselling. In addition, we found that a positive approach toward life and family support motivated some respondents to overcome the barriers. Conclusions We recommended strengthening Bangladesh’s HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and management program with a special focus on the improvement of the supply chain of ART-related medicines and CD4 tests and ensuring proper counselling. In addition, we recommended strengthening the behaviour change communication and IEC activities at a large scale to destigmatize health facilities and community levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0276575
Number of pages27
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART)
  • HIV infections
  • Adherence
  • Bangladesh
  • Qualitative

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