"We fear the police, and the police fear us": Structural and individual barriers and facilitators to HIV medication adherence among injection drug users in Kiev, Ukraine

Matthew J. Mimiaga, Steven A. Safren, Sergiy Dvoryak, Sari L. Reisner, Richard Needle, George Woody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations

Abstract

Ukraine has one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in Europe, with an estimated 1.63% of the population living with HIV/AIDS in 2007. Injection drug use (IDU) remains the predominant mode of transmission in Kiev - the capital and largest city. Prior reports suggest that the HIV infection rate among IDUs in Kiev reaches 33%, and many have poor and inequitable access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Among those with access to HAART, little is understood about barriers and facilitators to HAART medication adherence. In May 2009, two semi-structured focus groups were conducted with HIV-infected IDUs seeking treatment at the City AIDS Center, Kiev. The goal was to use this information to adapt and tailor, to Ukrainian culture, an evidence-based intervention for improving adherence to HAART. All 16 participants attributed HIV infection to IDU. Their average age was 31.6 (SD=7.0), average time with HIV 5.7 years (SD=4.0), average time on HAART 2.5 years (SD=1.7), average time as IDU 14.6 years (SD=6.8), and 88% were on opioid substitution therapy. The most salient themes related to adherence barriers included: (1) harassment and discrimination by police; (2) opioid dependence; (3) complexity of drug regimen; (4) side effects; (5) forgetting; (6) co-occurring mental health problems; and (7) HIV stigma. Facilitators of adherence included: (1) cues for pill taking; (2) support and reminders from family, significant other, and friends; (3) opioid substitution therapy; and (4) wanting improved health. Additional factors explored included: (1) knowledge about HAART; (2) storage of medications; and (3) IDU and sexual risk behaviors. Findings highlighted structural and individual barriers to adherence. At the structural level, police discrimination and harassment was reported to be a major barrier to adherence to opioid substitution therapy and HAART. Privacy and stigma were barriers at the individual level. Recommendations for adherence interventions included education, training, and identification cards to show police that medication was for treatment of HIV, not for abuse; and involving family members and other systems of support for HIV treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1305-1313
Number of pages9
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Volume22
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ARV
  • HIV
  • IDU
  • Ukraine
  • adherence
  • opioid substitution therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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