Welcome to MSF Field Research


MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.


Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
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Research Resources


  • Female Genital Schistosomiasis and HIV: Research Urgently Needed to Improve Understanding of the Health Impacts of This Important Coinfection.

    O'Brien, DP; Ford, Nathan; Djirmay, AG; Calmy, A; Vitoria, M; Jensen, TO; Christinet, V (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2019-04-15)
    Evidence suggests that there are important interactions between HIV and female genital schistosomiasis (FGS) that may have significant effects on individual and population health. However, the exact way they interact and the health impacts of the interactions are not well understood. In this article, we discuss what is known about the interactions between FGS and HIV, and the potential impact of the interactions. This includes the likelihood that FGS is an important health problem for HIV-positive women in Schistosoma-endemic areas potentially associated with an increased risk of mortality, cancer, and infertility. In addition, it may be significantly impacting the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa by making young women more susceptible to HIV. We call for immediate action and argue that research is urgently required to address these knowledge gaps and propose a research agenda to achieve this.
  • High incidence of intended partner pregnancy among men living with HIV in rural Uganda: Implications for safer conception services.

    Kaida, A; Kabakyenga, J; Bwana, M; Bajunirwe, F; Mayindike, W; Bennett, K; Kembabazi, A; Haberer, JE; Boum, Y; Martin, JN; Hunt, PW; Bangsberg, DR; Matthews, LT (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2019-04-15)
    Many men with HIV express fertility intentions and nearly half have HIV-uninfected sexual partners. We measured partner pregnancy among a cohort of men accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Uganda. Self-reported partner pregnancy incidence and bloodwork (CD4, HIV-RNA) were collected quarterly. Interviewer-administered questionnaires assessed men's sexual and reproductive health annually and repeated at time of reported pregnancy (2011-2015). We measured partner pregnancy incidence overall, by pregnancy intention, and by reported partner HIV-serostatus. We assessed viral suppression (≤400 copies/mL) during the peri-conception period. Cox proportional hazard regression with repeated events identified predictors of partner pregnancy. Among 189 men, baseline median age was 39.9 years [IQR:34.7,47.0], years on ART was 3.9 [IQR:0.0,5.1], and 51% were virally suppressed. Over 530.2 person-years of follow-up, 63 men reported 85 partner pregnancies (incidence=16.0/100 person-years); 45% with HIV-serodifferent partners. By three years of follow-up, 30% of men reported a partner pregnancy, with no difference by partner HIV-serostatus (p=0.75). 69% of pregnancies were intended, 18% wanted but mis-timed, and 8% unwanted. 78% of men were virally suppressed prior to pregnancy report. Men who were younger (aHR:0.94/year;95%CI:0.89-0.99), had incomplete primary education (aHR:2.95;95%CI:1.36-6.40), and reported fertility desires (aHR:2.25;95%CI:1.04-4.85) had higher probability of partner pregnancy. A high incidence of intended partner pregnancy highlights the need to address men's reproductive goals within HIV care. Nearly half of pregnancy partners were at-risk for HIV and one-quarter of men were not virally suppressed during peri-conception. Safer conception care provides opportunity to support men's health and reproductive goals, while preventing HIV transmission to women and infants.
  • A screening tool for psychological difficulties in children aged 6 to 36 months: cross-cultural validation in Kenya, Cambodia and Uganda.

    Nackers, F; Roederer, T; Marquer, C; Ashaba, S; Maling, S; Mwanga-Amumpaire, J; Muny, S; Sokeo, C; Shom, V; Palha, M; Lefebvre, P; Kirubi, BW; Kamidigo, G; Falissard, B; Moro, MR; Grais, RF (BioMed Central, 2019-04-12)
    In low-resource settings, the lack of mental health professionals and cross-culturally validated screening instruments complicates mental health care delivery. This is especially the case for very young children. Here, we aimed to develop and cross-culturally validate a simple and rapid tool, the PSYCa 6-36, that can be administered by non-professionals to screen for psychological difficulties among children aged six to 36 months. A primary validation of the PSYCa 6-36 was conducted in Kenya (n = 319 children aged 6 to 36 months; 2014), followed by additional validations in Kenya (n = 215; 2014) Cambodia (n = 189; 2015) and Uganda (n = 182; 2016). After informed consent, trained interviewers administered the PSYCa 6-36 to caregivers participating in the study. We assessed the psychometric properties of the PSYCa 6-36 and external validity was assessed by comparing the results of the PSYCa 6-36 against a clinical global impression severity [CGIS] score rated by an independent psychologist after a structured clinical interview with each participant. The PSYCa 6-36 showed satisfactory psychometric properties (Cronbach's alpha > 0.60 in Uganda and > 0.70 in Kenya and Cambodia), temporal stability (intra-class correlation coefficient [ICC] > 0.8), and inter-rater reliability (ICC from 0.6 in Uganda to 0.8 in Kenya). Psychologists identified psychological difficulties (CGIS score > 1) in 11 children (5.1%) in Kenya, 13 children (8.7%) in Cambodia and 15 (10.5%) in Uganda, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.65 in Uganda and 0.80 in Kenya and Cambodia. The PSYCa 6-36 allowed for rapid screening of psychological difficulties among children aged 6 to 36 months among the populations studied. Use of the tool also increased awareness of children's psychological difficulties and the importance of early recognition to prevent long-term consequences. The PSYCa 6-36 would benefit from further use and validation studies in popula`tions with higher prevalence of psychological difficulties.
  • Patient and health-care worker experiences of an HIV viral load intervention using SMS: A qualitative study.

    Venables, E; Ndlovu, Z; Munyaradzi, D; Martinez-Perez, G; Mbofana, E; Nyika, P; Chidawanyika, H; Bygrave, H; Garone, D (Public Library of Science, 2019-04-11)
    Mobile Health or mHealth interventions, including Short Message Service (SMS), can help increase access to care, enhance the efficiency of health service delivery and improve diagnosis and treatment for HIV. Text messaging, or SMS, allows for the low cost transmission of information, and has been used to send appointment reminders, information about HIV counselling and treatment, messages to encourage adherence and information on nutrition and side-effects. HIV Viral Load (VL) monitoring is recommended by the WHO and has been progressively adopted in many settings. In Zimbabwe, implementation of VL is routine and has been rolled out with support of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since 2012. An SMS intervention to assist with the management of VL results was introduced in two rural districts of Zimbabwe. After completion of the HIV VL testing at the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory in Harare, results were sent to health facilities via SMS. Consenting patients were also sent an SMS informing them that their viral load results were ready for collection at their nearest health facilities. No actual VL results were sent to patients. A qualitative study was conducted in seven health-care facilities using in-depth interviews (n = 32) and focus group discussions (n = 5) to explore patient and health-care worker experiences of the SMS intervention. Purposive sampling was used to select participants to ensure that male and female patients, as well as those with differing VL results and who lived differing distances from the clinics were included. Data were transcribed, translated from Shona into English, coded and thematically analysed using NVivo software. The VL SMS intervention was considered acceptable to patients and health-care workers despite some challenges in implementation. The intervention was perceived by health-care workers as improving adherence and well-being of patients as well as improving the management of VL results at health facilities. However, there were some concerns from participants about the intervention, including challenges in understanding the purpose and language of the messages and patients coming to their health facility unnecessarily. Health-care workers were more concerned than patients about unintentional HIV disclosure relating to the content of the messages or phone-sharing. This was an innovative intervention in Zimbabwe, in which SMS was used to send VL results to health-care facilities, and notifications of the availability of VL results to patients. Interventions such as this have the potential to reduce unnecessary clinic visits and ensure patients with high VL results receive timely support, but they need to be properly explained, alongside routine counselling, for patients to fully benefit. The findings of this study also have potential policy implications, as if implemented well, such an SMS intervention has the potential to help patients adopt a more active role in the self-management of their HIV disease, become more aware of the importance of adherence and VL monitoring and seek follow-up at clinics when results are high.
  • Lessons learned: Retrospective assessment of outcomes and management of patients with advanced HIV disease in a semi-urban polyclinic in Epworth, Zimbabwe.

    Blankley, S; Gashu, T; Ahmad, B; Belaye, AK; Ringtho, L; Mesic, A; Zizhou, S; Casas, EC (Public Library of Science, 2019-04-10)
    HIV continues to be one of the leading causes of infectious death worldwide and presentation with advanced HIV disease is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Recommendations for the management of advanced HIV disease include prompt screening and treatment of opportunistic infections, rapid initiation of ART and intensified adherence support. We present treatment outcomes of a cohort of patients presenting with advanced HIV disease in a semi-urban Zimbabwean polyclinic. Retrospective cohort analysis of adult patients enrolled for care at Epworth polyclinic, Zimbabwe between 2007 and end June 2016. Treatment outcomes at 6 and 12 months were recorded. Multivariate logistical regression analysis was undertaken to identify risk factors for presentation with advanced HIV Disease (CD4 count less than 200 cells/mm3 or WHO stage 3 or 4) and risks for attrition at 12 months. 16,007 anti-retroviral therapy naive adult patients were included in the final analysis, 47.4% of whom presented with advanced HIV disease. Patients presenting with advanced HIV disease had a higher mortality rate at 12 months following enrollment compared to early stage patients (5.11% vs 0.45%). Introduction of a package of differentiated care for patients with a CD4 count of less than 100 cells/mm3 resulted in diagnosis of cryptococcal antigenaemia in 7% of patients and a significant increase in the diagnosis of TB, although there was no significant difference in attrition at 6 or 12 months for these patients compared to those enrolled prior to the introduction of the differentiated care. The burden of advanced HIV disease remained high over the study period in this semi-urban polyclinic in Zimbabwe. Introduction of a package of differentiated care for those with advanced HIV disease increased the diagnosis of opportunistic infections and represents a model of care which can be replicated in other polyclinics in the resource constrained Zimbabwean context.

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