It's Not Just the Pills: A Qualitative Meta-Synthesis of HIV Antiretroviral Adherence Research

J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care. 2017 Jul-Aug;28(4):462-478. doi: 10.1016/j.jana.2017.02.007. Epub 2017 Feb 22.


Antiretroviral therapy (ART) improves the health and longevity of people living with HIV infection (PLWH) and also prevents transmission of the virus. Yet, lack of adherence to ART regimens has been a persistent problem, even with simpler regimens. Guidelines that deal with ART adherence are based almost solely on quantitative studies; this focus ignores the context and complexity of patients' lives. Guidelines are also focused on the individual. We argue that the solution is to include the broader communities in which patients live, and to deal with systemic disparities that persist worldwide; this can be done in part through demedicalizing HIV care for healthy PLWH. We present findings from a qualitative meta-synthesis of 127 studies conducted around the world on the last two pillars of the HIV treatment cascade: starting and remaining on ART until optimal viral suppression is achieved. We use Maslow's hierarchy of needs to frame our findings.

Keywords: HIV; Maslow's hierarchy of needs; adherence; antiretroviral therapy; qualitative meta-synthesis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents