Background: The extent to which patients follow treatments as prescribed is pivotal to treatment success. An exceptionally high level (> 95%) of HIV medication adherence is required to suppress viral replication and protect the immune system and a similarly high level (> 80%) of adherence has also been suggested in order to benefit from prescribed exercise programmes. However, in clinical practice, adherence to both often falls below the desirable level. This project aims to investigate a wide range of psychological and personality factors that may lead to adherence/non-adherence to medical treatment and exercise programmes.
Methods: HIV positive patients who are referred to the physiotherapist-led 10-week exercise programme as part of the standard care are continuously recruited. Data on social cognitive variables (attitude, intention, subjective norms, self-efficacy, and outcome beliefs) about the goal and specific behaviours, selected personality factors, perceived quality of life, physical activity, self-reported adherence and physical assessment are collected at baseline, at the end of the exercise programme and again 3 months later. The project incorporates objective measures of both exercise (attendance log and improvement in physical measures such as improved fitness level, weight loss, improved circumferential anthropometric measures) and medication adherence (verified by non-invasive hair analysis).
Discussion: The novelty of this project comes from two key aspects, complemented with objective information on exercise and medication adherence. The project assesses beliefs about both the underlying goal such as following prescribed treatment; and about the specific behaviours such as undertaking the exercise or taking the medication, using both implicit and explicit assessments of patients' beliefs and attitudes. We predict that i) the way people think about the underlying goal of their treatments explains medication and exercise behaviours over and above the effects of the behaviour-specific thinking and ii) the relationship between adherence to exercise and to medical treatment is stronger among those with more favourable views about the goal. Results from this study should identify the key contributing factors to inform subsequent adherence research and afford a more streamlined assessment matrix. The project also aims to inform patient care practices. UK CLINICAL RESEARCH NETWORK REGISTRATION NUMBER: UKCRN 7842.