Changes in disclosure, adherence and healthcare interactions after the introduction of immediate ART initiation: an analysis of patient experiences in Swaziland


INTRODUCTION: There are concerns that immediate ART initiation (regardless of CD4 count) negatively affects HIV status disclosure, ART adherence and healthcare interactions. We assessed changes in these factors after the ‘Early access to ART for all’ intervention, a universal test-and-treat study in Swaziland. METHODS: We recruited two samples of participants between 2014 and 2017. The first group was interviewed before the intervention (control); the second group at the implementation and 6 months thereafter (intervention). RESULTS: High levels of disclosure to partners (controls and intervention: 94%) and family members (controls: 78%, intervention: 79%) were reported, and high levels of adherence (85% did not miss a dose among the controls, 84% in the intervention group). There were no changes in patients reporting feeling pressured to initiate ART (controls: 10%, intervention: 11%). The quality of interaction with healthcare workers improved after the intervention; healthcare workers explained more often the choice of ART initiation (controls: 88%, intervention: 93%) and the meaning of both CD4 and viral load test results (controls: 15%, intervention: 47%). More patients in the intervention group reported receiving test results (controls: 13%, intervention: 46%). We observed no changes in disclosure, adherence or patient experiences 6 months into the intervention compared to its start. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that both reported adherence and disclosure levels remain high after the introduction of immediate ART in Swaziland. We observed an improvement in the healthcare interactions, possibly due to training at participating facilities, which will be an important element for a successful roll-out of immediate ART.

Tropical medicine & international health: TM & IH