Many new technologies monitor patients’ and study participants’ medical adherence. Some have cautioned that these devices transgress personal autonomy and ethics. But do they? This qualitative study explored how Ugandan study participants perceive the effect of electronic monitoring of their adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) on their freedoms to be non-adherent and pursue other activities that monitoring may inadvertently expose. Between August 2014 and June 2015, we interviewed 60 Ugandans living with HIV and enrolled in the Uganda AIDS Rural Treatment Outcomes (UARTO) study, a longitudinal, observational study involving electronic adherence monitors (EAMs) to assess ART adherence. We also interviewed 6 UARTO research assistants. Both direct and indirect content analysis were used to interpret interview transcripts. We found that monitoring created a sense of pressure to adhere to ART, which some participants described as “forcing” them to adhere. However, even participants who felt that monitoring forced them to take medications perceived using the EAM as conducive to their fundamental goal of high ART adherence. Overall, even if monitoring may have limited participants’ effective freedom to be non-adherent, participants welcomed any such effect. No participant rejected the EAM on the grounds that it would limit that effective freedom. Reports that monitoring altered behaviors unrelated to pill-taking were rare. Researchers should continue to be vigilant about the ways in which behavioral health monitoring affects autonomy, but should also recognize that even autonomy-limiting monitoring strategies may enable participants to achieve their own goals.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases