Focus group discussion with private sector doctors in the eThekwini Metro of KwaZulu-Natal on the management of HIV/AIDS patients.
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Background: Highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) is essential in the treatment of HIV/AIDS; however, a holistic approach to HIV/AIDS management is important. This study was done to confirm the findings of two studies done previously in the eThekwini Metro of KwaZulu-Natal on private sector doctors’ management of HIV-infected patients and to obtain more in-depth information about their nonpharmacological management of HIV-infected patients. Methods: Two focus group discussions were conducted amongst private sector doctors in the eThekwini Metro, after obtaining their consent. The focus group sessions were scripted, audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Prevalent themes were identified and reported. Results: Eight doctors participated. Of the total patient population seen annually by the majority of the doctors, an average of 43.8% was HIV infected. Doctors in this study managed their patients both pharmacologically and nonpharmacologically. Seventy-five per cent of doctors indicated that the taste of medicine played an important role in nonadherence to treatment, but all agreed that cultural beliefs also influenced the patient’s adherence to medication. Theft of medicines and the out of-stock situation prevented antiretroviral drug access, which impacted negatively on adherence. Five doctors mentioned that depressed patients abused alcohol, resulting in nonadherence. One doctor reported that he used the biopsychosocial approach to improve adherence in his patients. Doctors indicated that the disability grant given by the South African Government caused patients not to adhere to treatment in order to maintain a CD4 count of 200 or less so as to qualify for the grant. Conclusions: The study confirmed the previous study findings in that it showed that private sector doctors manage their HIV-infected patients both pharmacologically and nonpharmacologically. It further provided new and interesting information with regard to the nonpharmacological methods employed in HIV/AIDS management, that is the incorporation of cultural beliefs in the management of HIV-infected patients to improve adherence to treatment, and the role of the disability grant and pharmaceutical formulations in contributing to nonadherence by HIV-infected patients.