Adherence to HIV care after pregnancy among women in sub-Saharan Africa: falling off the cliff of the treatment cascade

Curr HIV/AIDS Rep. 2015 Mar;12(1):1-5. doi: 10.1007/s11904-014-0252-6.


Increased access to testing and treatment means HIV can be managed as a chronic illness, though successful management requires continued engagement with the health care system. Most of the global HIV burden is in sub-Saharan Africa where rates of new infections are consistently higher in women versus men. Pregnancy is often the point at which an HIV diagnosis is made. While preventing mother to child transmission (PMTCT) interventions significantly reduce the rate of vertical transmission of HIV, women must administer ARVs to their infants, adhere to breastfeeding recommendations, and test their infants for HIV after childbirth. Some women will be expected to remain on the ARVs initiated during pregnancy, while others are expected to engage in routine testing so treatment can be reinitiated when appropriate. The postpartum period presents many barriers to sustained treatment adherence and engagement in care. While some studies have examined adherence to postpartum PMTCT guidelines, few have focused on continued engagement in care by the mother, and very few examine adherence beyond the 6-week postpartum visit. Here, we attempt to identify gaps in the research literature and make recommendations on how to address barriers to ongoing postpartum HIV care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control*
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents