Focus on Increasing Treatment Self-Efficacy to Improve Human Immunodeficiency Virus Treatment Adherence


Dr. Kathleen Nokes, Hunter College, CUNY, Hunter Bellevue SON, 425 East 25 St. Box 874, New York, NY 10010. E-mail:


Purpose: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment self-efficacy is the confidence held by an individual in her or his ability to follow treatment recommendations, including specific HIV care such as initiating and adhering to antiretroviral therapy (ART). The purpose of this study was to explore the potential mediating role of treatment adherence self-efficacy in the relationships between Social Cognitive Theory constructs and self- reported ART adherence.

Design: Cross-sectional and descriptive. The study was conducted between 2009 and 2011 and included 1,414 participants who lived in the United States or Puerto Rico and were taking antiretroviral medications.

Methods: Social cognitive constructs were tested specifically: behaviors (three adherence measures each consisting of one item about adherence at 3-day and 30-day along with the adherence rating scale), cognitive or personal factors (the Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale to assess for depressive symptoms, the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) to assess physical functioning, one item about physical condition, one item about comorbidity), environmental influences (the Social Capital Scale, one item about social support), and treatment self-efficacy (HIV Adherence Self-Efficacy Scale). Analysis included descriptive statistics and regression.

Results: The average participant was 47 years old, male, and a racial or ethnic minority, had an education of high school or less, had barely adequate or totally inadequate income, did not work, had health insurance, and was living with HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome for 15 years. The model provided support for adherence self-efficacy as a robust predictor of ART adherence behavior, serving a partial mediating role between environmental influences and cognitive or personal factors.

Conclusions: Although other factors such as depressive symptoms and lack of social capital impact adherence to ART, nurses can focus on increasing treatment self-efficacy through diverse interactional strategies using principles of adult learning and strategies to improve health literacy.

Clinical Relevance: Adherence to ART reduces the viral load thereby decreasing morbidity and mortality and risk of transmission to uninfected persons. Nurses need to use a variety of strategies to increase treatment self-efficacy.