Background: Medication adherence is a critical but challenging developmental task for children and adolescents with perinatally acquired HIV (PHIV). Understanding how medication responsibility, executive functions (EFs) and adaptive functioning (AF) influence adherence may help prepare adolescents for transition to adulthood.
Methods: Participants included PHIV children and adolescents 7-16 years of age enrolled in the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study Adolescent Master Protocol, who were prescribed antiretroviral medications. Measures included caregiver report and child self-report measures of adherence, medication responsibility and EF, caregiver report of child AF, examiner-administered tests of EF and processing speed and demographic and health characteristics.
Results: Two hundred fifty-six participants with PHIV (mean age: 12 years old) were 51% female, 80% black and 79% non-Hispanic. Per 7-day recall, 72% were adherent (no missed doses). Children/adolescents self-reported that 22% had sole and 55% had shared medication responsibility. Adjusted logistic models revealed significantly higher odds of adherence with sole caregiver responsibility for medication [odds ratio (OR): 4.10, confidence interval (CI): 1.43-11.8, P = 0.009], child nadir CD4% <15% (OR: 2.26, CI: 1.15-4.43, P = 0.018), better self-reported behavioral regulation (OR: 0.65, CI: 0.44-0.96, P = 0.029) and slower processing speed (OR: 0.54, CI: 0.38-0.77, P < 0.001), adjusting for demographic variables (age, race and caregiver education).
Conclusions: Among children and adolescents with PHIV, continued caregiver medication management, especially during adolescence, is essential. Although global EF and AF were not significantly associated with adherence, behavioral regulation was. Given that EF and AF develop throughout adolescence, their relationships to adherence should be evaluated longitudinally, especially as youth transition to adulthood and caregiver responsibility diminishes.