Self-reported adherence to antiretroviral therapy for HIV-1 infection and virologic treatment response: a meta-analysis

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2005 Apr 1;38(4):445-8. doi: 10.1097/01.qai.0000147522.34369.12.


Background: Adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for HIV-1 infection is essential for plasma HIV-1 RNA suppression. Self-report is the most frequently used measure of adherence to HAART, but its validity is controversial. Studies on the relation between self-reported adherence and virologic treatment response have shown inconsistent results. We investigated whether this variability between studies about the effect of self-reported adherence on virologic treatment response could be attributed to study design features.

Methods: We searched for studies reporting on adult nonpregnant patients prescribed antiretroviral therapy for chronic HIV-1 infection using a self-reported adherence measure and providing information about the relation between adherence and plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations. Meta-analysis with random effects modeling was used to pool data and to investigate sources of heterogeneity.

Results: Sixty-five studies fulfilled inclusion criteria, containing data from 15,351 patients. The pooled odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of detectable plasma viral load in nonadherent patients was 2.31 (1.99-2.68). There was significant heterogeneity among studies (P < 0.001). Not ascertaining confidentiality of responses, use of actual viral load measurements, an adherence threshold lower than 95%, higher percentages of patients on their initial antiretroviral regimen, and higher percentages of patients with a history of intravenous drug use within a study were associated with higher point estimates.

Conclusions: Overall, we observed that self-reported adherence measures can distinguish between clinically meaningful patterns of medication-taking behavior. Distinct study characteristics were significantly associated with the relation between adherence and virologic response. These characteristics should be taken into consideration when interpreting results from studies on self-reported adherence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • HIV-1 / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Care


  • Anti-HIV Agents