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1.  Understanding HIV care delays in the US South and the role of the social-level in HIV care engagement/retention: a qualitative study 
Introduction
In a significant geographical shift in the distribution of HIV infection, the US South - comprising 17 states - now has the greatest number of adults and adolescents with HIV (PLHIV) in the nation. More than 60% of PLHIV are not in HIV care in Alabama and Mississippi, contrasted with a national figure of 25%. Poorer HIV outcomes raise concerns about HIV-related inequities for southern PLHIV, which warrant further study. This qualitative study sought to understand experiences of low-income PLHIV on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program in engagement and retention in continuous HIV care in two sites in Alabama.
Methods
The study was designed using grounded theory. Semi-structured interviews with 25 PLHIV explored experiences with care linkage, reported factors and behaviors affecting engagement/retention in continuous HIV care, including socio-economic factors. To triangulate sources, 25 additional interviews were conducted with health and social service providers from the same clinics and AIDS Service Organizations where clients obtained services. Across the narratives, we used the HIV care continuum to map where care delays and drop out occurred. Using open coding, constant comparison and iterative data collection and analysis, we constructed a conceptual model illustrating how participants described their path to HIV care engagement and retention.
Results
Most respondents reported delayed HIV care, describing concentric factors: psychological distress, fear, lack of information, substance use, incarceration, lack of food, transport and housing. Stark health system drop out occurred immediately after receipt of HIV test results, with ART initiation generally occurring when individuals became ill. Findings highlight these enablers to care: Alabama's 'social infrastructure'; 'twinning' medical with social services, 'social enablers' who actively link PLHIV to care; and 'enabling spaces' that break down PLHIV isolation, facilitating HIV care linkage/retention.
Conclusions
Ryan White-funded programs, together with housing, food and psychological support were pre-conditions for participants' entry and retention in HIV care. The path to achieving continuous HIV care for individuals at risk of lack of entry or delayed HIV care requires robust social-level responses, like in Alabama, that address physical and mental health of clients and directly engage the particular social and economic contexts and vulnerabilities of southern PLHIV.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-13-28
PMCID: PMC3983673  PMID: 24708752
2.  Health system weaknesses constrain access to PMTCT and maternal HIV services in South Africa: a qualitative enquiry 
Background
HIV remains responsible for an estimated 40% of mortality in South African pregnant women and their children. To address these avoidable deaths, eligibility criteria for antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnant women were revised in 2010 to enhance ART coverage. With greater availability of HIV services in public health settings and increasing government attention to poor maternal-child health outcomes, this study used the patient's journey through the continuum of maternal and child care as a framework to track and document women's experiences of accessing ART and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) programmes in the Eastern Cape (three peri-urban facilities) and Gauteng provinces (one academic hospital).
Results
In-depth interviews identified considerable weaknesses within operational HIV service delivery. These manifested as missed opportunities for HIV testing in antenatal care due to shortages of test kits; insufficient staff assigned to HIV services; late payment of lay counsellors, with consequent absenteeism; and delayed transcription of CD4 cell count results into patient files (required for ART initiation). By contrast, individual factors undermining access encompassed psychosocial concerns, such as fear of a positive test result or a partner's reaction; and stigma. Data and information systems for monitoring in the three peri-urban facilities were markedly inadequate.
Conclusions
A single system- or individual-level delay reduced the likelihood of women accessing ART or PMTCT interventions. These delays, when concurrent, often signalled wholesale denial of prevention and treatment. There is great scope for health systems' reforms to address constraints and weaknesses within PMTCT and ART services in South Africa. Recommendations from this study include: ensuring autonomy over resources at lower levels; linking performance management to facility-wide human resources interventions; developing accountability systems; improving HIV services in labour wards; ensuring quality HIV and infant feeding counselling; and improved monitoring for performance management using robust systems for data collection and utilisation.
doi:10.1186/1742-6405-8-10
PMCID: PMC3058008  PMID: 21371301

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