MPhil study projects

Investigating factors associated with poor viral load suppression among HIV positive adults on first line treatment regimens in Ekurhuleni North, South Africa

Student: Nosiphelo Ntshiqa

Country: South Africa

The HIV/Aids epidemic remains a significant contributor to global ill health and mortality, with UNAIDS setting ambitious targets to eliminate HIV by 2030. The Ekurhuleni district fell short of meeting the targets in 2022, with a viral load suppression rate of 88,8%. Understanding the factors contributing to poor viral suppression is essential for improving outcomes.

This study investigated factors associated with unsuppressed viral loads in people living with HIV (PLHIV) accessing treatment in Ekurhuleni North. Using a cross-sectional research design, data was collected from 351 PLHIV who had been on treatment for at least 12 months.

The study found that poor viral suppression was prevalent, affecting 57,8% of participants. Factors associated with high viral load included marital status (being married but not cohabiting), lower educational attainment, recent sexual activity, history of antiretroviral therapy (ART) non-adherence and use of non-prescribed or traditional medicines.

These findings underscored the need for targeted interventions, including intensified adherence counselling and educational programmes, particularly for married individuals and people with lower education levels. Additionally, efforts should be made to educate PLHIV about the risks of substituting ART with non-prescribed medications or traditional remedies.