Barriers and enabling structural forces affecting access to antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria

Oturu, Kingsley and O’Brien, Oonagh and Ozo-Eson, Philomena I. (2024) Barriers and enabling structural forces affecting access to antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria. BMC Public Health, 24 (1). 105. ISSN 1471-2458 (

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Background Access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps to improve quality of life and reduces the spread of HIV. However, while a lot of studies focus on supply factors, such as resources for the purchase of antiretroviral drugs, demand and structural forces are not given much emphasis. In this paper it is argued that structural forces shape the way people access antiretroviral therapy in Nigeria. Methods A Grounded Theory methodology was undertaken in the research. Semi structured qualitative interviews were administered to select people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. This was facilitated by the Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN) to understand their perspectives with regard to barriers and enablers to ART access in Nigeria. Thirty persons living with HIV/AIDS were interviewed and recorded. The interview recordings were transcribed and coded using a constructionist epistemological approach. This was triangulated with results of preliminary and secondary literature review analysis. Results In this research, the participants discussed structural forces (barriers and enablers) that influenced how they accessed ART. These included economic factors such as poverty that enabled transactional sex. Unequal gender relations and perceptions influenced how they accessed ART. The participants’ belief in ‘God’ and religious activities such as ‘prayer’ and the use of ‘traditional medicine’ had an impact on how and when they accessed ART. Political activity at the international, national, and local levels influenced access to ART as well as resources. The individual’s familial, social, and organisational connections also influenced their ease of accessing ART. Conclusions This study identifies structural forces that affect access to antiretroviral therapy and provides recommendations on how they can be harnessed to enable improved access to ART and consequently improved health.