Access to HIV care services, including antiretroviral therapy (ART), is essential for improving health outcomes of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and reducing HIV transmission and AIDS-related deaths. As a part of a qualitative study in Belu, this paper describes the use of traditional medicines for HIV treatment and family and social influence as barriers to access to HIV care services among PLHIV. One-on-one in-depth interviews were employed to collect data from 46 PLHIV (26 women and 20 men) and 10 healthcare professionals. They were recruited using the snowball sampling technique. The study information sheets were initially posted on information boards in healthcare facilities. Potential participants who contacted to confirm their participation were recruited for an interview and then asked for help to distribute the information sheets to their eligible colleagues who might be willing to participate. Data analysis was performed using NVivo 12 software and guided by a qualitative data analysis framework. The findings showed that the use of traditional medicines, a well-known cultural practice in Belu, was a barrier to access to HIV care services among PLHIV. The influence of family in determining the use of traditional medicines for HIV treatment, supported by the lack of knowledge of ART, effectiveness of traditional medicines in treating other health issues, and social influence of relatives, neighbours, and friends, were also significant barriers to PLHIV’s access to HIV care services. The findings indicate the need for dissemination of HIV care-related information for PLHIV, family, and community members to increase their knowledge of the service, ART and its function, and to support and improve access to HIV care services especially ART by PLHIV.
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