Adherence to antiretroviral therapy during and after pregnancy in low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Jean B. Nachega, Olalekan A. Uthman, Jean Anderson, Karl Peltzer, Sarah Wampold, Mark F. Cotton, Edward J. Mills, Yuh Shan Ho, Jeffrey S.A. Stringer, James A. McIntyre, Lynne M. Mofenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To estimate antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence rates during pregnancy and postpartum in high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries. DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis. METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCI Web of Science, NLM Gateway, and Google scholar databases were searched. We included all studies reporting adherence rates as a primary or secondary outcome among HIV-infected pregnant women. Two independent reviewers extracted data on adherence and study characteristics. A random-effects model was used to pool adherence rates; sensitivity, heterogeneity, and publication bias were assessed. RESULTS: Of 72 eligible articles, 51 studies involving 20153 HIV-infected pregnant women were included. Most studies were from United States (n=14, 27%) followed by Kenya (n=6, 12%), South Africa (n=5, 10%), and Zambia (n=5, 10%). The threshold defining good adherence to ART varied across studies (>80, >90, >95, 100%). A pooled analysis of all studies indicated a pooled estimate of 73.5% [95% confidence interval (CI) 69.3-77.5%] of pregnant women who had adequate (>80%) ART adherence. The pooled proportion of women with adequate adherence levels was higher during the antepartum (75.7%, 95% CI 71.5-79.7%) than during postpartum (53.0%, 95% CI 32.8-72.7%; P=0.005). Selected reported barriers for nonadherence included physical, economic and emotional stresses, depression (especially postdelivery), alcohol or drug use, and ART dosing frequency or pill burden. CONCLUSION: Our findings indicate that only 73.5% of pregnant women achieved optimal ART adherence. Reaching adequate ART adherence levels was a challenge in pregnancy, but especially during the postpartum period. Further research to investigate specific barriers and interventions to address them is urgently needed globally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2039-2052
Number of pages14
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 23 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV infection
  • adherence
  • antiretroviral therapy
  • pregnancy
  • prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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