Objective: To estimate antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence rates during pregnancy and postpartum in high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries.
Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Methods: MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCI Web of Science, NLM Gateway, and Google scholar databases were searched. We included all studies reporting adherence rates as a primary or secondary outcome among HIV-infected pregnant women. Two independent reviewers extracted data on adherence and study characteristics. A random-effects model was used to pool adherence rates; sensitivity, heterogeneity, and publication bias were assessed.
Results: Of 72 eligible articles, 51 studies involving 20 153 HIV-infected pregnant women were included. Most studies were from United States (n = 14, 27%) followed by Kenya (n = 6, 12%), South Africa (n = 5, 10%), and Zambia (n = 5, 10%). The threshold defining good adherence to ART varied across studies (>80, >90, >95, 100%). A pooled analysis of all studies indicated a pooled estimate of 73.5% [95% confidence interval (CI) 69.3-77.5%] of pregnant women who had adequate (>80%) ART adherence. The pooled proportion of women with adequate adherence levels was higher during the antepartum (75.7%, 95% CI 71.5-79.7%) than during postpartum (53.0%, 95% CI 32.8-72.7%; P = 0.005). Selected reported barriers for nonadherence included physical, economic and emotional stresses, depression (especially postdelivery), alcohol or drug use, and ART dosing frequency or pill burden.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that only 73.5% of pregnant women achieved optimal ART adherence. Reaching adequate ART adherence levels was a challenge in pregnancy, but especially during the postpartum period. Further research to investigate specific barriers and interventions to address them is urgently needed globally.