A mixed methods study of perceived social support based on the medical outcomes study social support survey in adults with repeated challenges with HIV medication adherence
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Numerous research studies in the HIV literature have documented social support as a key factor influencing adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is one of only a few studies to examine perceived social support among adults living with HIV who have had repeated challenges with medication adherence. A secondary analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from two intervention studies was conducted using a mixed methods design. Two overarching themes were associated with the lack of social support: extreme isolation and constant turmoil. Subthemes, included loneliness, structural vulnerability, and emotional distress. Overall social support was low in this vulnerable group, especially when compared to the general population and to adults living with other chronic health conditions. Strong correlations existed between all social support subscales of the Medical Outcomes Study Social Support Survey (MOS-SSS). The strongest positive correlation was found between affectionate support and positive social interaction (r = .870, p = less than .0001). These data suggest that participants who frequently self-reported a lack of persons to spend time with socially often lacked positive, supportive relationships in their lives. No significant variation was found between self-reported overall social support or subscale scores based on age or health variables. Convergent qualitative data excerpts corresponded with low quantitative social support scores in every dimension, confirming that adults living with HIV who repeatedly struggle with taking life-long HIV medications lack social support in many areas of their lives.