Adherence to additional medication for management of HIV-associated comorbidities among older children and adolescents taking antiretroviral therapy

PLoS One. 2022 Jun 15;17(6):e0269229. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0269229. eCollection 2022.


Background: Management of co-morbidities among persons living with HIV is an emerging priority, which may require additional medication over and above life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART). We explored factors associated with adherence to the trial drug among children and adolescents with perinatally acquired HIV taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the Bronchopulmonary Function in Response to Azithromycin Treatment for Chronic Lung Disease in HIV-Infected Children (BREATHE) trial.

Methods: The BREATHE trial recruited 6-19 year olds with perinatally acquired HIV and co-morbid chronic lung disease as measured by FEV1. This two-site trial was individually randomised (1:1), double-blind and placebo-controlled. Participants received a once-weekly weight-based dose of 1-5 tablets of azithromycin (AZM: 250mg) or placebo, taken orally. We used pharmacy dispensing records and count of returned pills to measure adherence to study medication. Logistic regression was used to explore factors associated with adherence coverage. Poisson regression with Lexis expansion for time was used to explore whether adherence modified the effect of azithromycin on the incidence of acute respiratory exacerbation, a secondary outcome of the trial. Trial registration: NCT02426112.

Results: The 347 participants (median age 15.3, 51% male) consumed 14,622 doses of study medication over 16,220 person-weeks under study. Adherence was higher for those randomised to AZM (73.4%) than placebo (68.4%) and declined over the 48 weeks of the study (Score test for trend <0.02). Those with unsuppressed HIV viral load at baseline had 2.08 (95% CI: 1.19, 3.63) times the odds of non-adherence than those with viral suppression. Differences were also observed between trial sites.

Conclusion: The majority of children and adolescents tolerated the addition of a once-weekly dose of medication to their pill burden. Barriers in adhering to treatment for co-morbid conditions are likely common to barriers in adhering to ART. Control of co-morbidities will therefore present additional challenges in HIV care.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-HIV Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Azithromycin / pharmacology
  • Azithromycin / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Azithromycin

Associated data