Original Research

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 1159-1164

First online:

Association Between Race, Depression, and Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence in a Low-Income Population with HIV Infection

  • Meg C. KongAffiliated withCollege of Pharmacy, Ohio State University
  • , Milap C. NahataAffiliated withCollege of Pharmacy, Ohio State University
  • , Veronique A. LacombeAffiliated withCollege of Pharmacy, Ohio State University
  • , Eric E. SeiberAffiliated withCollege of Public Health, Ohio State University
  • , Rajesh BalkrishnanAffiliated withCollege of Pharmacy and School of Public Health, University of Michigan Email author 

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Racial disparities exist in many aspects of HIV/AIDS. Comorbid depression adds to the complexity of disease management. However, prior research does not clearly show an association between race and antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, or depression and adherence. It is also not known whether the co-existence of depression modifies any racial differences that may exist.


To examine racial differences in ART adherence and whether the presence of comorbid depression moderates these differences among Medicaid-enrolled HIV-infected patients.


Retrospective cohort study.


Multi-state Medicaid database (Thomson Reuters MarketScan®).


Data for 7,034 HIV-infected patients with at least two months of antiretroviral drug claims between 2003 and 2007 were assessed.

Main Measures

Antiretroviral therapy adherence (90 % days covered) were measured for a 12-month period. The main independent variables of interest were race and depression. Other covariates included patient variables, clinical variables (comorbidity and disease severity), and therapy-related variables.

Key Results

In this study sample, over 66 % of patients were of black race, and almost 50 % experienced depression during the study period. A significantly higher portion of non-black patients were able to achieve optimal adherence (≥90 %) compared to black patients (38.6 % vs. 28.7 %, p < 0.001). In fact, black patients had nearly 30 % decreased odds of being optimally adherent to antiretroviral drugs compared to non-black patients (OR = 0.70, 95 % CI: 0.63–0.78), and was unchanged regard less of whether the patient had depression. Antidepressant treatment nearly doubled the odds of optimal ART adherence among patients with depression (OR = 1.92, 95 % CI: 1.12–3.29).


Black race was significantly associated with worse ART adherence, which was not modified by the presence of depression. Under-diagnosis and under-treatment of depression may hinder ART adherence among HIV-infected patients of all races.


HIV adherence depression race Medicaid