• Challenges and successes in the implementation of option B+ to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV in southern Swaziland.

      Etoori, D; Kerschberger, B; Staderini, N; Ndlangamandla, M; Nhlabatsi, B; Jobanputra, K; Mthethwa-Hleza, S; Parker, LA; Sibanda, S; Mabhena, E; et al. (BioMed Central, 2018-03-20)
      Background Universal antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all pregnant/ breastfeeding women living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), known as Prevention of mother-to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) Option B+ (PMTCTB+), is being scaled up in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the transition to PMTCTB+, many countries face challenges with proper implementation of the HIV care cascade. We aimed to describe the feasibility of a PMTCTB+ approach in the public health sector in Swaziland. Methods Lifelong ART was offered to a cohort of HIV+ pregnant women aged ≥16 years at the first antenatal care (ANC1) visit in 9 public sector facilities, between 01/2013 and 06/2014. The study enrolment period was divided into 3 phases (early: 01–06/2013, mid: 07–12/2013 and late: 01–06/2014) to account for temporal trends. Kaplan-Meier estimates and Cox proportional-hazards regression models were applied for ART initiation and attrition analyses. Results Of 665 HIV+ pregnant women, 496 (74.6%) initiated ART. ART initiation increased in later study enrolment phases (mid: aHR: 1.41; later: aHR: 2.36), and decreased at CD4 ≥ 500 (aHR: 0.69). 52.9% were retained in care at 24 months. Attrition was associated with ANC1 in the third trimester (aHR: 2.37), attending a secondary care facility (aHR: 1.98) and ART initiation during later enrolment phases (mid aHR: 1.48; late aHR: 1.67). Of 373 women eligible, 67.3% received a first VL. 223/251 (88.8%) were virologically suppressed (< 1000 copies/mL). Of 670 infants, 53.6% received an EID test, 320/359 had a test result recorded and of whom 7 (2.2%) were HIV+. Conclusions PMTCTB+ was found to be feasible in this setting, with high rates of maternal viral suppression and low transmission to the infant. High treatment attrition, poor follow-up of mother-baby pairs and under-utilisation of VL and EID testing are important programmatic challenges.
    • Sustaining the Future of HIV Counselling to Reach 90-90-90: a Regional Country Analysis

      Bemelmans, M; Baert, S; Negussie, E; Bygrave, H; Biot, M; Jamet, C; Ellman, T; Banda, A; van den Akker, T; Ford, N (International AIDS Society, 2016-05-13)
      Introduction: Counselling services are recommended by the World Health Organization and have been partially adopted by national HIV guidelines. In settings with a high HIV burden, patient education and counselling is often performed by lay workers, mainly supported with international funding. There are few examples where ministries of health have been able to absorb lay counsellors into their health systems or otherwise sustain their work. We document the role of lay cadres involved in HIV testing and counselling and adherence support and discuss approaches to sustainability. Methods: We focused on a purposive sample of eight sub-Saharan African countries where Médecins Sans Frontières supports HIV programmes: Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We reviewed both published and grey literature, including national policies and donor proposals, and interviewed key informants, including relevant government staff, donors and non-governmental organizations. Results and discussion: Lay counsellors play a critical role in scaling up HIV services and addressing gaps in the HIV testing and treatment cascade by providing HIV testing and counselling and adherence support at both the facility and community levels. Countries have taken various steps in recognizing lay counsellors, including harmonizing training, job descriptions and support structures. However, formal integration of this cadre into national health systems is limited, as lay counsellors are usually not included in national strategies or budgeting. Conclusions: The current trend of reduced donor support for lay counsellors, combined with lack of national prioritization, threatens the sustainability of this cadre and thereby quality HIV service delivery.