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“If She is Drunk, I Don’t Want Her to Take it”: Partner Beliefs and Influence on Use of Alcohol and Antiretroviral Therapy in South African Couples


Alcohol consumption and beliefs about mixing alcohol and ART are associated with decreased adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). In this study, we examined how romantic partners influence alcohol and ART use. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 HIV-positive individuals and their primary partners (48 individuals) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Almost 17% of participants spontaneously expressed beliefs that alcohol and ART should not be mixed. Participants who held these beliefs influenced their partners' behaviors by either discouraging the mixing of alcohol and ART, which sometimes resulted in missed pills when drinking, or by helping partners manage their medications when drinking. Other participants encouraged partners to take ART no matter what. Messages on alcohol and ART may need to be refined for ART patients who cannot abstain from alcohol. Primary partners should be included in these education efforts and their influence could be leveraged to help reduce alcohol consumption and maintain adherence.

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