Treatment is My Life Now: Experiences of treatments among people living with HIV in the PICTs

27 June 2013 –

President of Fiji Ratu Epeli Nailatikau launching the report in Suva, Fiji on 27 June 2013 as research team leader Ms Hilary Gorman looks on

This study, launched in Fiji on 27 June 2013, describes the treatment experiences of HIV-positive people from Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Samoa and Solomon Islands, and involved People Living with HIV (PLHIV) as peer researchers in carrying out the research.

It summarises the results of qualitative research conducted to better understand reasons for initiating, continuing and ceasing treatment among PLHIV in the Pacific Islands. The research focuses specifically on diagnosis and medications, health services, ART adherence, alternative therapies and attitudes to treatment.

Funded by the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund, this study was completed under the oversight of the Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation (PIAF), and the Cook Islands National HIV, STI & TB Committee.

In total, 49 PLHIV were interviewed, including 23 HIV-positive people in Fiji, 11 HIV-positive people in Guam, 2 HIV-positive people in Kiribati, 5 HIV-positive people in Samoa and 8 HIV-positive people in Solomon Islands.

According to SPC Director General Dr Jimmie Rodgers, 'the report is written from the eyes of people living with HIV as seen by the research team to whom congratulations are due. It shares the realities, struggles and hopes of people infected by the virus as seen from their interviews. It highlights the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. It provides insights into what treatment means to people with HIV and AIDS. It provides reality checks on the health systems as seen from the lens of people with HIV and AIDS, and it highlights the huge amount of work facing all of us in addressing stigma.'

Most participants said that ART had an immensely positive impact on their lives because it increased their strength and helped them to regain their health, prolonging life and giving them hope. However, participants also noted adverse side effects associated with ART as well as challenges relating to adherence and access to health services.

Support from immediate family, partners and children by reminding PLHIV to take their medication and providing food, comfort and emotional support greatly enabled people to adhere to their treatment.

More than half of the respondents saw a link between their religious faith and their treatment. Some felt that their faith had increased after being diagnosed and receiving treatment and some viewed faith and treatment as being complementary in supporting them to live.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Provide more information that addresses fears of dying so that people understand that medication is available to treat HIV, but that it is a lifetime commitment
  • Educate PLHIV about HIV treatment so they understand the benefits of ART, how to cope with side effects, the purpose of CD4 and viral load testing and the support available to them
  • Continue to train and build the capacities of Pacific health workers on the importance of offering confidential, non-judgemental care and support to PLHIV
  • Improve access to ART and CD4 and viral load testing
  • Ensure that families of PLHIV are educated about how HIV is and is not transmitted, the role and importance of ART for PLHIV and the significance of family support in treatment adherence
  • Fund and support PLHIV network organisations so that they are able to continue to offer support to PLHIV, their families and communities
  • Ensure that Ministries of Health integrate the cost of ART into health budgets
  • Conduct further research on HIV treatment adherence

Access the complete report here

Photo caption: President of Fiji Ratu Epeli Nailatikau launching the report in Suva, Fiji on 27 June 2013 as research team leader Ms Hilary Gorman looks on