Colocci, I., Perlo, J., Rajagopal, S. S., Betancourt, T. S., Pradeep, A., Mayer, K. H., Kumarasamy, N., O’Cleirigh, C., Katz, I. T., Chan, B. T.
In India, many people living with HIV (PLHIV) do not successfully initiate antiretroviral therapy (ART) after diagnosis. We conducted a clinic-based qualitative study at the Y.R. Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research in Chennai, Tamil Nadu to explore factors that influence ART non-initiation. We interviewed 22 men and 15 women; median age was 42 (IQR, 36-48) and median CD4+ was 395 (IQR, 227-601). Participants were distrustful of HIV care freely available at nearby government facilities. Faced with the perceived need to access the private sector and therefore pay for medications and transportation costs, non-initiators with high CD4+ counts often decided to postpone ART until they experienced symptoms whereas non-initiators with low CD4+ counts often started ART but defaulted quickly after experiencing financial stressors or side effects. Improving perceptions of quality of care in the public sector, encouraging safe serostatus disclosure to facilitate stronger social support, and alleviating economic hardship may be important in encouraging ART initiation in India.