Time, self and the medication day: a closer look at the everyday work of ‘adherence’


Address for correspondence: Liza McCoy, Department of Sociology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada
e-mail: mccoy@ucalgary.ca


This article examines the everyday work of participating in pharmaceutical treatment for HIV infection in the context of urgent calls for adherence. Drawing on interviews and focus-group conversations with people taking antiretroviral drugs, the analysis explicates the work that goes into striving for adherence. What comes into view is a form of time work that brings about a temporary alignment between the inner experience of time, standard clock time, and the requirements of the medication schedule. Time work is largely cognitive; the pills, however, must actually be swallowed to complete the dose, occasioning, for some people, additional work to suppress or refashion emotional responses of anger and resistance. Both the time work and the emotional work of taking antiretroviral drugs draw people into forms of self work, including self-examination and self-adjustment, as they develop strategies for ‘doing adherence’.