It is unclear whether using peers can improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART). To construct the World Health Organization's global guidance on adherence interventions, we conducted a systematic review and network meta‐analysis to determine the effectiveness of using peers for achieving adequate adherence and viral suppression.
We searched for randomized clinical trials of peer‐based interventions to promote adherence to ART in HIV populations. We searched six electronic databases from inception to July 2015 and major conference abstracts within the last three years. We examined the outcomes of adherence and viral suppression among trials done worldwide and those specific to low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMIC) using pairwise and network meta‐analyses.
Results and discussion
Twenty‐two trials met the inclusion criteria. We found similar results between pairwise and network meta‐analyses, and between the global and LMIC settings. Peer supporter+Telephone was superior in improving adherence than standard‐of‐care in both the global network (odds‐ratio [OR]=4.79, 95% credible intervals [CrI]: 1.02, 23.57) and the LMIC settings (OR=4.83, 95% CrI: 1.88, 13.55). Peer support alone, however, did not lead to improvement in ART adherence in both settings. For viral suppression, we found no difference of effects among interventions due to limited trials.
Our analysis showed that peer support leads to modest improvement in adherence. These modest effects may be due to the fact that in many settings, particularly in LMICs, programmes already include peer supporters, adherence clubs and family disclosures for treatment support. Rather than introducing new interventions, a focus on improving the quality in the delivery of existing services may be a more practical and effective way to improve adherence to ART.