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1.  Negotiating multiple barriers: health workers’ access to counselling, testing and treatment in Malawi 
AIDS care  2010;22(0 1):68-76.
Malawi is facing a severe HIV and AIDS epidemic with an estimated 12% of its population living with the virus. Health workers are on the front lines of the HIV epidemic and they face the risk of HIV infection in both their personal and professional lives. This mixed method study aimed to explore the enablers and barriers to HIV counselling and testing and antiretroviral therapy by health workers in Malawi. After qualitative data were collected through in-depth interviews with health workers in the Mchinji and Nsanje districts, a survey questionnaire was constructed and administered to 906 health workers in eight districts in Malawi.
A majority (76%) of health workers surveyed reported having undergone HIV testing and counselling, of whom 74% reported repeat testing. A striking result of the study is that 22% of health workers reported testing after occupational exposure to HIV. The proportions of respondents reporting that they tested after experiencing symptoms, or self-testing for HIV were 11% each. The in-depth interviews and the survey revealed multiple challenges that health workers face to accessing HIV testing, counselling and treatment, including fear of a positive result, fear of stigma and lack of confidentiality. Additional barriers included health workers’ personal acquaintance with those conducting testing, along with their perception of being “role models” which could exacerbate their fears about confidentiality. Given health workers’ critical role in HIV delivery in Malawi, there is need to develop solutions to help health workers overcome these barriers.
doi:10.1080/09540121003607241
PMCID: PMC4260140  PMID: 20680862
health workers; Malawi; access; ART; counselling and testing
2.  Levels of Tuberculosis Treatment Adherence among Sputum Smear Positive Pulmonary Tuberculosis Patients Attending Care at Zomba Central Hospital, Southern Malawi, 2007–2008 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63050.
Background
Despite great efforts to control Tuberculosis (TB), progress is compromised by low adherence to medication, leading to prolonged duration of infectiousness and continued transmission. Investigating low adherence is of high importance from TB programmatic perspective. Though data on actual days of missed treatment exist, the effect of such on TB cure rates has not been investigated.
Methods
TB operational research data were extracted for smear-positive pulmonary TB patients registered at Zomba Central hospital, Malawi from January 2007 to December 2008.
Results
Of the 524 patients, 302 (57.6%) were males and 340 (64.9%) fully adhered to treatment. Excluding 5 individuals with missing data on cure, four hundred and eighty-one (92.7%) were cured of TB, and of these 162 (33.7%) missed at least one day of treatment. Respectively, 49/64 (76.6%) and 71/76 (93.4%) of those who missed treatment in the intensive and continuation phases were cured of TB (p = 0.005). The adjusted logistic regression analysis showed that those who missed 15–29 days of treatment (OR = 0.04, 95% CI: 0.01, 0.14) were less likely to be cured of TB compared with those who fully adhered.
Conclusion
Treatment non-adherence was high and was observed even within the first 2 months of treatment. Thus, even at an earlier critical stage of treatment, simple algorithms need to be developed to identify and monitor patients at higher risk of non-adherence. Efforts on treatment compliance counselling should focus on enhanced counselling to improve adherence during the intensive treatment phase.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063050
PMCID: PMC3665834  PMID: 23723972
3.  A Retrospective Survey of HIV Drug Resistance Among Patients 1 Year After Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy at 4 Clinics in Malawi 
In 2004, Malawi began scaling up its national antiretroviral therapy (ART) program. Because of limited treatment options, population-level surveillance of acquired human immunodeficiency virus drug resistance (HIVDR) is critical to ensuring long-term treatment success. The World Health Organization target for clinic-level HIVDR prevention at 12 months after ART initiation is ≥70%. In 2007, viral load and HIVDR genotyping was performed in a retrospective cohort of 596 patients at 4 ART clinics. Overall, HIVDR prevention (using viral load ≤400 copies/mL) was 72% (95% confidence interval [CI], 67%–77%; range by site, 60%–83%) and detected HIVDR was 3.4% (95% CI, 1.8%–5.8%; range by site, 2.5%–4.7%). Results demonstrate virological suppression and HIVDR consistent with previous reports from sub-Saharan Africa. High rates of attrition because of loss to follow-up were noted and merit attention.
doi:10.1093/cid/cis004
PMCID: PMC3338311  PMID: 22544203
4.  Acceptability and Effectiveness of the Storekeeper-Based TB Referral System for TB Suspects in Sub-Districts of Lilongwe in Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e39746.
Background
Early access to tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment remains a challenge in developing countries. General use of informal providers such as storekeepers is common. The aim of this study was to determine the effectiveness and acceptability of a storekeeper-based referral system for TB suspects in urban settings of Lilongwe, Malawi.
Methods
The referral system intervention was implemented in two sub-districts. This was evaluated using a pre and post comparison as well as comparison with a third sub-district designated as the control. The intervention included training of storekeepers to detect and refer clients with chronic cough using predesigned referral letters along with monitoring and supervision. Data from a community based chronic cough survey and an audit of health centre records were used to measure its effectiveness. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were carried out to document acceptability of the intervention with the different stakeholders.
Results
Following the intervention, the mean patient delay appeared lower in the intervention than comparison areas (2.14 weeks (SD 5.8) vs 8.8 weeks (SD 15.1)). However, after adjusting for confounding variables this difference was not significant (p = 0.07). After the intervention the proportion of the population diagnosed with smear positive TB in the intervention sites (1.2 per 1000) was significantly higher than in the comparison area (0.6 per 1000, p<0.01) even after adjusting for sex and age. Qualitative findings suggested that (a) the referral letters triggered health workers to ask patients to submit sputum for TB diagnosis (b) the approach may be sustainable as the referral role was linked to the livelihood of the storekeepers.
Conclusion
The study suggests that the referral system with storekeepers is sustainable and effective in increasing smear positive TB case notification. Studies that assess this approach for control of other diseases along with collection of specimens by storekeepers or similar providers are needed.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039746
PMCID: PMC3433456  PMID: 22962575
5.  Evidence for changes in behaviour leading to reductions in HIV prevalence in urban Malawi 
Sexually Transmitted Infections  2011;87(4):296-300.
Background
At the epicentre of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Africa, HIV prevalence has appeared to stabilise in most countries. However, there are indications that the HIV epidemic in Malawi has recently declined.
Methods
We analysed sexual behaviour survey data from Malawi between 2000 and 2004 and HIV prevalence data from the national antenatal clinic HIV surveillance system between 1994 and 2007 using a mathematical modelling technique that can identify associations between behaviour change and reductions in incidence.
Results
In Malawi between 2000 and 2004 there were significant reductions in the proportion of 15–19 year olds starting sex, the proportion of men having sex with more than one woman in the previous year and significant increases in condom use by men with multiple partners. In the same period, prevalence dropped from 26% to 15% in urban areas among pregnant women and reduced by 40% among women aged 15–24 years. In the same period, prevalence remained at ∼12% in rural areas. Mathematical modelling suggests that the declines in prevalence in urban areas were associated with the behaviour changes and that, if the changes are maintained, this will have cumulatively averted 140 000 (95% interval: 65 000 to 160 000) HIV infections by 2010.
Conclusion
Changes in sexual behaviour can avert thousands of new HIV infections in mature generalised hyper-endemic settings. In urban Malawi, the reduction in the number of men with multiple partners is likely to have driven the reduction in incidence. Understanding the causes of this change is a priority so that successful programmes and campaigns can be rapidly expanded to rural areas and other countries in the region.
doi:10.1136/sti.2010.043786
PMCID: PMC3252594  PMID: 21429896
HIV; Epidemiology; prevention; mathematical modelling
6.  The Malawi National Tuberculosis Programme: an equity analysis 
Background
Until 2005, the Malawi National Tuberculosis Control Programme had been implemented as a vertical programme. Working within the Sector Wide Approach (SWAp) provides a new environment and new opportunities for monitoring the equity performance of the programme. This paper synthesizes what is known on equity and TB in Malawi and highlights areas for further action and advocacy.
Methods
A synthesis of a wide range of published and unpublished reports and studies using a variety of methodological approaches was undertaken and complemented by additional analysis of routine data on access to TB services. The analysis and recommendations were developed, through consultation with key stakeholders in Malawi and a review of the international literature.
Results
The lack of a prevalence survey severely limits the epidemiological knowledge base on TB and vulnerability. TB cases have increased rapidly from 5,334 in 1985 to 28,000 in 2006. This increase has been attributed to HIV/AIDS; 77% of TB patients are HIV positive. The age/gender breakdown of TB notification cases mirrors the HIV epidemic with higher rates amongst younger women and older men. The WHO estimates that only 48% of TB cases are detected in Malawi. The complexity of TB diagnosis requires repeated visits, long queues, and delays in sending results. This reduces poor women and men's ability to access and adhere to services. The costs of seeking TB care are high for poor women and men – up to 240% of monthly income as compared to 126% of monthly income for the non-poor. The TB Control Programme has attempted to increase access to TB services for vulnerable groups through community outreach activities, decentralising DOT and linking with HIV services.
Conclusion
The Programme of Work which is being delivered through the SWAp is a good opportunity to enhance equity and pro-poor health services. The major challenge is to increase case detection, especially amongst the poor, where we assume most 'missing cases' are to be found. In addition, the Programme needs a prevalence survey which will enable thorough equity monitoring and the development of responsive interventions to promote service access amongst 'missing' women, men, boys and girls.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-6-24
PMCID: PMC2253525  PMID: 18163918

Results 1-6 (6)