Background: Suboptimal adherence to HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) and concomitant lack of viral control can have severe consequences for health and onward transmission among persons living with HIV. Little is known about the barriers and facilitators of optimal ART adherence among heterosexual HIV-positive men.
Methods: Structural equation modeling (SEM) was performed to test a theory-derived model of ART adherence using data from a cross-sectional sample of 317 HIV-positive self-identified heterosexual men residing in New York City. We assessed a conceptual model in which mental health (depression, anxiety) and substance use dependence mediated the effects of socio-structural factors (HIV-related stigma, social support) on ART adherence, and subsequently, undetectable viral load.
Results: Structural equation modeling analyses indicated that men who reported higher levels of HIV-related stigma tended to experience higher levels of general anxiety, which in turn was associated with reduced probability of optimal ART adherence. Moreover, men who reported higher levels of social support tended to exhibit less dependence on illicit substance use, which in turn was associated with increased probability of optimal ART adherence. African-American men reported lower ART adherence compared to other racial/ethnic groups.
Conclusions: Our findings support the hypothesis that substance use dependence and mental health problems, particularly anxiety, may be primary drivers of suboptimal ART adherence among heterosexual men, and that socio-structural factors such as HIV-related stigma and social support are potential modifiable antecedents of these drivers.
Keywords: Adherence; Antiretroviral therapy; HIV-positive; Heterosexual men; Social support; Stigma; Structural equation modeling; Viral suppression.