The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
VVT: Study design, data collection, data entry, data analysis, manuscript writing, AP: Study design, research tool developing, manuscript writing, BD: Data entry, manuscript writing, NPH: Study design, data collection, manuscript writing, NTKC: Study design, manuscript writing, HDP: data analysis, manuscript writing, ML: Study design, data analysis, manuscript writing, AT: Study design, data analysis, manuscript writing,GM: Data analysis, manuscript writing. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Among people living with HIV (PLHIV) on antiretroviral therapy (ART), it is important to determine how quality of life (QOL) may be improved and HIV-related stigma can be lessened over time. This study assessed the effect of peer support on QOL and internal stigma during the first year after initiating ART among a cohort of PLHIV in north-eastern Vietnam.
A sub-sample study of a randomised controlled trial was implemented between October 2008 and November 2010 in Quang Ninh, Vietnam. In the intervention group, participants (n = 119) received adherence support from trained peer supporters who visited participants’ houses biweekly during the first two months, thereafter weekly. In the control group, participants (n = 109) were treated according to standard guidelines, including adherence counselling, monthly health check and drug refills. Basic demographics were measured at baseline. QOL and internal stigma were measured using a Vietnamese version of the WHOQOL-HIVBREF and Internal AIDS-related Stigma Scale instruments at baseline and 12 months. T-tests were used to detect the differences between mean values, multilevel linear regressions to determine factors influencing QOL.
Overall, QOL improved significantly in the intervention group compared to the control group. Among participants initiating ART at clinical stages 3 and 4, education at high school level or above and having experiences of a family member dying from HIV were also associated with higher reported QOL. Among participants at clinical stage 1 and 2, there was no significant effect of peer support, whereas having children was associated with an increased QOL. Viral hepatitis was associated with a decreased QOL in both groups. Lower perceived stigma correlated significantly but weakly with improved QOL, however, there was no significant relation to peer support.
The peer support intervention improved QOL after 12 months among ART patients presenting at clinical stages 3 and 4 at baseline, but it had no impact on QOL among ART patients enrolled at clinical stages 1 and 2. The intervention did not have an effect on Internal AIDS-related stigma. To improve QOL for PLHIV on ART, measures to support adherence should be contextualized in accordance with individual clinical and social needs.