In Zambia, more people living with HIV now have access to lifesaving antiretroviral therapy than ever before. However, progress in HIV treatment and care has not always resulted in lower mortality. Adherence remains a critical barrier to treatment success. The objective of this study was to examine the barriers and facilitators of antiretroviral therapy adherence, particularly the role of household economic status. The study included a cross-sectional sample of 101 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in two rural communities in eastern Zambia. Adherence was measured using patient self-assessment and pharmacy information. Household economic status included components such as occupation, income, assets, food security, and debt. Multivariable logistic regression was conducted to examine the associations between household economic factors and adherence. Our findings suggest that the role of economic status on adherence appears to be a function of the economic component. Debt and non-farming-related occupation were consistently associated with non-adherence. The association between assets and adherence depends on the type of asset. Owning more transportation-related assets was consistently associated with non-adherence, whereas owning more livestock was associated with self-reported adherence. Additionally, living in a community with fewer economic opportunities was associated with non-adherence. The associations between place of residence and pharmacy refill adherence and between transportation assets and self-reported adherence were statistically significant. Improving adherence requires a multifaceted strategy that addresses the role of economic status as a potential barrier and facilitator. Programmes that provide economic opportunities and life-skills training may help PLHIV to overcome economic, social, and psychological barriers.
Keywords: HIV treatment; Southern Africa; asset ownership; debt; medication.