Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection

The information in the brief version is excerpted directly from the full-text guidelines. The brief version is a compilation of the tables and boxed recommendations.

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Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy in Children and Adolescents Living with HIV

Last Updated: April 14, 2020; Last Reviewed: April 14, 2020

Panel's Recommendations for Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy in Children and Adolescents Living with HIV
Panel's Recommendations
  • Strategies to maximize adherence should be discussed before and/or at initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and again before changing regimens (AIII).
  • Adherence to therapy must be assessed and promoted at each visit, and strategies to maintain and/or improve adherence must be continually explored (AIII).
  • In addition to viral load monitoring, at least one other method of measuring adherence to ART should be used (AIII).
  • Once-daily antiretroviral regimens and regimens with a low pill burden should be prescribed whenever feasible (AII*).
Rating of Recommendations: A = Strong; B = Moderate; C = Optional

Rating of Evidence: I = One or more randomized trials in childrenwith clinical outcomes and/or validated endpoints; I* = One or more randomized trials in adults with clinical outcomes and/or validated laboratory endpoints with accompanying data in children from one or more well-designed, nonrandomized trials or observational cohort studies with long-term clinical outcomes; II = One or more well-designed, nonrandomized trials or observational cohort studies in childrenwith long-term outcomes; II* = One or more well-designed, nonrandomized trials or observational studies in adults with long-term clinical outcomes with accompanying data in children from one or more similar nonrandomized trials or cohort studies with clinical outcome data; III = Expert opinion

Studies that include children or children/adolescents, but not studies limited to post-pubertal adolescents

Table 13. Approaches for Monitoring Medication Adherence
Routine Assessment of Medication Adherence in Clinical Carea Description
Monitor viral load. Viral load monitoring should be done more frequently after initiating or changing medications.a
Assess a quantitative self-report of missed doses. Ask the patient and/or caregiver about the number of missed doses over a defined period (1, 3, or 7 days).
Request a description of the medication regimen. Ask the patient and/or caregiver about the name, appearance, and number of medications, and how often the medications are taken.
Assess barriers to medication administration. Engage the patient and caregiver in a dialogue about potential barriers to adherence and strategies to overcome them.
Monitor pharmacy refills. Approaches include a pharmacy-based or clinic-based assessment of on-time medication refills.
Conduct announced and unannounced pill counts. Approaches include asking patients to bring medications to the clinic, home visits, or referral to community health nursing.
Targeted Approaches to Monitoring Adherence in Special Circumstances Description
Implement DOT. Include a brief period of hospitalization if indicated.
Measure drug concentration in plasma or DBS. Measuring drug concentrations can be considered for particular drugs.
Approaches to Monitoring Medication Adherence in Research Settings Description
Measure drug concentrations in hair. Measuring hair drug concentrations can be considered for particular drugs; it provides a good measure of adherence over time.17,45,46
Use electronic monitoring devices. Approaches include MEMS caps and Wisepill.
Use cell phone-based technologies. Approaches include interactive voice response, text messaging, and mobile apps.
a See Clinical and Laboratory Monitoring of Pediatric HIV Infection regarding the frequency of adherence assessment after initiating or changing therapy.

Key: apps = applications; DBS = dried blood spots; DOT = directly observed therapy; MEMS = Medication Event Monitoring System

Table 14. Strategies to Improve Adherence to Antiretroviral Medications
Initial Intervention Strategies
  • Establish trust and identify mutually acceptable goals for care.
  • Obtain explicit agreement on the need for treatment and adherence.
  • Identify depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, or other mental health issues in the child/adolescent and/or the caregiver that may affect adherence. Evaluate and initiate treatment for mental health issues before starting ARV drugs, if possible.
  • Determine whether the child is aware of their HIV status. Consider talking to the child’s caregivers about disclosing this information to the child in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • Identify family, friends, health team members, and others who can support adherence.
  • Educate the patient and family about the critical role of adherence in therapy outcome, including the relationship between partial adherence and resistance and the potential impact on future drug regimen choices. Develop a treatment plan that the patient and family understand and to which they feel committed.
  • Work with the patient and family to make specific plans for taking medications as prescribed and for supporting adherence. Assist them in arranging administration during day care, school, and in other settings, when needed. Consider home delivery of medications.
  • Establish a patient’s readiness to take medication by staging practice sessions or by other means.
  • Schedule a home visit to review medications and determine how they will be administered in the home setting.
  • In certain circumstances, consider a brief period of hospitalization at the start of therapy for patient education and to assess the tolerability of the chosen medications.
Medication Strategies
  • Choose the simplest regimen possible; reduce dosing frequency, pill size, and number of pills (see Appendix A, Table 1 and Appendix A, Table 2).
  • When choosing a regimen, consider the patient’s daily and weekly routines and potential variations in patient and family activities.
  • Choose the most palatable medicine possible (pharmacists may be able to add syrups or flavoring agents to increase palatability).
  • Choose drugs with the fewest AEs; provide anticipatory guidance for managing AEs.
  • Simplify food requirements for medication administration.
  • Prescribe drugs carefully to avoid adverse drug-drug interactions.
  • Assess pill-swallowing capacity and offer pill-swallowing training and aids (e.g., pill-swallowing cup, pill glide). Adjust pill size as needed.
Follow-up Intervention Strategies
  • Have more than one member of the multidisciplinary team monitor adherence at each visit and in between visits by telephone, email, text, and social media, as needed.
  • Provide ongoing support, encouragement, and understanding of the difficulties associated with maintaining adherence to daily medication regimens.
  • Use patient education aids, including pictures, calendars, and stickers.
  • Encourage the use of pill boxes, reminders, mobile apps, alarms, and timers.
  • Provide follow-up clinic visits, telephone calls, and text messages to support and assess adherence.
  • Provide access to support groups, peer groups, or one-on-one counseling for caregivers and patients, especially for those with known depression or drug use issues that are known to decrease adherence.
  • Provide pharmacist-based adherence support, such as medication education and counseling, blister packs, refill reminders, automatic refills, and home delivery of medications.
  • Consider DOT at home, in the clinic, or, in certain circumstances, during a brief period of inpatient hospitalization.
  • Consider gastrostomy tube use in certain circumstances.
  • Information on other interventions to consider can be found at the Complete Listing of Medication Adherence Evidence-Based Behavioral Interventions on CDC’s website.
  • Consult the CDC Every Dose Every Day toolkit.
Key: apps = applications; ARV = antiretroviral; AE = adverse effect; CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; DOT = directly observed therapy

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