Dysphagia and pill swallowing in HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Results of a scoping review


BACKGROUND: South Africa has the highest prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) worldwide. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is expected to improve the quality of life for these individuals but requires long-term medication intake. Poor pill adherence and related dysphagia are undocumented for individuals on HAART regimens living in South Africa. AIM: To conduct a scoping review describing the presentation of pill swallowing difficulties and dysphagia experiences of individuals with HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in South Africa. METHOD: This review describes the presentation of pill swallowing difficulties and dysphagia experiences of individuals with HIV and AIDS in South Africa using a modified version of the Arksey and O’Malley framework. Five search engines targeting published journal articles were reviewed. Two hundred and twenty-seven articles were retrieved; however, following the exclusion criteria based on PICO, only three articles were included. Qualitative analysis was completed. RESULTS: The reviewed articles identified swallowing difficulties that adults with HIV and AIDS experienced and confirmed non-adherence to medical regimens. Barriers and facilitators of pill swallowing with dysphagia due to the side-effects of the pill itself were documented with physical properties of the pill not influencing adherence. CONCLUSION: The speech-language pathologists (SLPs) role with individuals with HIV/AIDS to facilitate improved pill adherence was lacking with limited research on the management of swallowing difficulties in this population. The review identified dysphagia and pill adherence management by the SLP in South Africa as caveats for further research.Contribution: Speech-language pathologists must monitor swallowing during mealtimes as well as pill swallowing in individuals with HIV/AIDS due to the compromise of their oral health and oral structures. Speech-language pathologists therefore have to advocate for their role in the team managing this population of patients. Their involvement may reduce the risk of nutritional compromise as well as patient non-compliance with medication stemming from pain and inability to swallow solid oral dosage forms of medication.


Cohen A, Seedat J, Sawasawa C




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Engagement and Care Cascade
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment


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