The intersection of poverty and HIV/AIDS has exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities in Zambia. For example, the downstream consequences of HIV/AIDS are likely to be severe among the poor. Current research has relied on multidimensional indicators of poverty, which encompass various forms of deprivation, including material. Although comprehensive measures help us understand what constitutes poverty and deprivation, their complexity and scope may hinder the development of appropriate and feasible interventions. These limitations prompted us to examine whether material hardship, a more practicable, modifiable aspect of poverty, is associated with medication adherence and perceived stress among people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Zambia. We used cross-sectional data from 101 PLHIV in Lundazi District, Eastern Province. Data were collected using a questionnaire and hospital records. Material hardship was measured using a five-item scale. Perceived stress was measured using the ten-item perceived stress scale. Adherence was a binary variable measured using a visual analog scale and medication possession ratio (MPR) obtained from pharmacy data. We analyzed the data with multivariable linear and logistic regressions using multiply imputed datasets. Results indicated that greater material hardship was significantly associated with MPR nonadherence (odds ratio = 0.83) and higher levels of perceived mental distress (β = 0.34). Our findings provide one of the first evidence on the association of material hardship with treatment and mental health outcomes among PLHIV. The findings also draw attention to the importance of economic opportunities for PLHIV and their implications for reducing material hardship and improving adherence and mental health status.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS; Material hardship; Medication adherence; Perceived stress; Poverty; Zambia.