The impact of the availability of antiretroviral therapy on personal and community fear of HIV/AIDS, and HIV prevention practices in Rwimi, Uganda: A mixed-method study

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Nicole Naadu Ofosu
L. Duncan Saunders
Gian Jhangri
Afif Alibhai

Abstract

The impact of the widespread availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) on the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) related attitudes, behaviours and practices of the general population in Sub-Saharan Africa is understudied. We assessed the impact of ART availability on the fear of HIV/ AIDS (measured at both community and personal levels) and HIV prevention practices in Rwimi, Uganda using a cross-sectional survey. The fear of HIV/AIDS was described as a perceived threat to either self and/or community regarding the risk of contracting the disease, whereby the higher the perception of the threat, the greater the fear. We assessed associations between the outcomes of the dependent variables on both the community and personal fear of HIV/AIDS, and the independent variables of HIV/AIDS-related knowledge and demographics. Qualitative data was also generated from focus group discussions (FGD) on the context of the fear of HIV/AIDS and HIV pre- vention practices. The majority of participants (89.4%; males - 86.8%; females - 90.8%) felt that ART availability has reduced the fear of HIV/AIDS in the community. In contrast, fewer participants (22.4%; males - 24.4%; females – 21.2%) mentioned that their personal fear of HIV/AIDS has been reduced with the availability of ART. From the qualitative study, factors identified as influencing the fear of HIV/AIDS included stigma, fear of infection, and the inconvenience of being on ART. Although fear of HIV/AIDS persists, the fear is reduced because of the availability of life-prolonging ART. HIV prevention practices are influenced by socio-cultural norms (gender roles, relationship dynamics, power and trust), which, we argue, should be considered when de-signing sustainable HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

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