Adolescents in Kenya spend the majority of their time in a school environment. However, research to understand Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) adherence among adolescents living with HIV (ALWHIV) in school settings is sparse.


To improve the design of appropriate interventions to better support this vulnerable population, the study aimed to explore school-related barriers to ART adherence experienced by ALWHIV.


Qualitative data were utilized from a larger mixed-methods study on ALWHIV conducted at a major teaching and referral hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. Participants encompassed ALWHIV, their caregivers, teachers, and health care providers. Transcripts from a total of 24 in-depth interviews and five focus group discussions were analyzed in NVivo using a thematic approach.


Four themes emerged as key barriers in a school setting: negative experiences following HIV status self-disclosure, a strong desire for secrecy, restrictive school policies, and health education focused on sexual transmission of HIV. Participants suggested a range of potential interventions to better support ART adherence for ALWHIV, including coaching ALWHIV on disclosure strategies, promoting empathy among teachers and students, transition-preparing for ALWHIV, changing the narrative about HIV transmission in schools, providing water in schools, and introducing adherence support programs in schools, including the use of mobile technology.


ALWHIV in Kenya experience numerous important challenges while trying to maintain optimal ART adherence in the school environment. Interventions that create supportive school settings are critical for better health outcomes among ALWHIV.

Keywords: Adolescents, Barriers, Adherence, Antiretroviral therapy, Schools, Interventions.
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