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author:("sodci, Sumeet")
1.  The Lablite project: A cross-sectional mapping survey of decentralized HIV service provision in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe 
Background
In sub-Saharan Africa antiretroviral therapy (ART) is being decentralized from tertiary/secondary care facilities to primary care. The Lablite project supports effective decentralization in 3 countries. It began with a cross-sectional survey to describe HIV and ART services.
Methods
81 purposively sampled health facilities in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe were surveyed.
Results
The lowest level primary health centres comprised 16/20, 21/39 and 16/22 facilities included in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe respectively. In Malawi and Uganda most primary health facilities had at least 1 medical assistant/clinical officer, with average 2.5 and 4 nurses/midwives for median catchment populations of 29,275 and 9,000 respectively. Primary health facilities in Zimbabwe were run by nurses/midwives, with average 6 for a median catchment population of 8,616. All primary health facilities provided HIV testing and counselling, 50/53 (94%) cotrimoxazole preventive therapy (CPT), 52/53 (98%) prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) and 30/53 (57%) ART management (1/30 post ART-initiation follow-up only). All secondary and tertiary-level facilities provided HIV and ART services. In total, 58/81 had ART provision. Stock-outs during the 3 months prior to survey occurred across facility levels for HIV test-kits in 55%, 26% and 9% facilities in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe respectively; for CPT in 58%, 32% and 9% and for PMTCT drugs in 26%, 10% and 0% of facilities (excluding facilities where patients were referred out for either drug). Across all countries, in facilities with ART stored on-site, adult ART stock-outs were reported in 3/44 (7%) facilities compared with 10/43 (23%) facility stock-outs of paediatric ART. Laboratory services at primary health facilities were limited: CD4 was used for ART initiation in 4/9, 5/6 and 13/14 in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe respectively, but frequently only in selected patients. Routine viral load monitoring was not used; 6/58 (10%) facilities with ART provision accessed centralised viral loads for selected patients.
Conclusions
Although coverage of HIV testing, PMTCT and cotrimoxazole prophylaxis was high in all countries, decentralization of ART services was variable and incomplete. Challenges of staffing and stock management were evident. Laboratory testing for toxicity and treatment effectiveness monitoring was not available in most primary level facilities.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-352) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-352
PMCID: PMC4148932  PMID: 25138583
HIV services; Sub-Saharan Africa; Antiretroviral therapy rollout; Primary care health facilities; Stock-outs; Decentralization
2.  Supporting middle-cadre health care workers in Malawi: lessons learned during implementation of the PALM PLUS package 
BMC Health Services Research  2014;14(Suppl 1):S8.
Background
The government of Malawi is committed to the broad rollout of antiretroviral treatment in Malawi in the public health sector; however one of the primary challenges has been the shortage of trained health care workers. The Practical Approach to Lung Health Plus HIV/AIDS in Malawi (PALM PLUS) package is an innovative guideline and training intervention that supports primary care middle-cadre health care workers to provide front-line integrated primary care. The purpose of this paper is to describe the lessons learned in implementing the PALM PLUS package.
Methods
A clinical tool, based on algorithm- and symptom-based guidelines was adapted to the Malawian context. An accompanying training program based on educational outreach principles was developed and a cascade training approach was used for implementation of the PALM PLUS package in 30 health centres, targeting clinical officers, medical assistants, and nurses. Lessons learned were identified during program implementation through engagement with collaborating partners and program participants and review of program evaluation findings.
Results
Key lessons learned for successful program implementation of the PALM PLUS package include the importance of building networks for peer-based support, ensuring adequate training capacity, making linkages with continuing professional development accreditation and providing modest in-service training budgets. The main limiting factors to implementation were turnover of staff and desire for financial training allowances.
Conclusions
The PALM PLUS approach is a potential model for supporting mid-level health care workers to provide front-line integrated primary care in low and middle income countries, and may be useful for future task-shifting initiatives.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-S1-S8
PMCID: PMC4108880  PMID: 25080192
training; educational outreach; task-shifting; continuing professional development; antiretroviral treatment; integrated primary care; nurses; clinical officers; medical assistants; health surveillance assistants; guideline; train-the-trainer; south-south collaboration; formation; sensibilisation; délégation de tâches; formation continue; soins primaires intégrés; personnel infirmier; personnel clinique; auxiliaires médicaux; adjoints à la surveillance sanitaire; lignes directrices; formation des formateurs; collaboration Sud-Sud
3.  A taxonomy for community-based care programs focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care in resource-poor settings 
Global Health Action  2013;6:10.3402/gha.v6i0.20548.
Community-based care (CBC) can increase access to key services for people affected by HIV/AIDS through the mobilization of community interests and resources and their integration with formal health structures. Yet, the lack of a systematic framework for analysis of CBC focused on HIV/AIDS impedes our ability to understand and study CBC programs. We sought to develop taxonomy of CBC programs focused on HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings in an effort to understand their key characteristics, uncover any gaps in programming, and highlight the potential roles they play. Our review aimed to systematically identify key CBC programs focused on HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings. We used both bibliographic database searches (Medline, CINAHL, and EMBASE) for peer-reviewed literature and internet-based searches for gray literature. Our search terms were ‘HIV’ or ‘AIDS’ and ‘community-based care’ or ‘CBC’. Two co-authors developed a descriptive taxonomy through an iterative, inductive process using the retrieved program information. We identified 21 CBC programs useful for developing taxonomy. Extensive variation was observed within each of the nine categories identified: region, vision, characteristics of target populations, program scope, program operations, funding models, human resources, sustainability, and monitoring and evaluation strategies. While additional research may still be needed to identify the conditions that lead to overall program success, our findings can help to inform our understanding of the various aspects of CBC programs and inform potential logic models for CBC programming in the context of HIV/AIDS in resource-limited settings. Importantly, the findings of the present study can be used to develop sustainable HIV/AIDS-service delivery programs in regions with health resource shortages.
doi:10.3402/gha.v6i0.20548
PMCID: PMC3629264  PMID: 23594416
community-based care; HIV; resource-limited settings; review; taxonomy
4.  Patient costs associated with accessing HIV/AIDS care in Malawi 
Introduction
The decentralization of HIV services has been shown to improve equity in access to care for the rural poor of sub-Saharan Africa. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of the impact of decentralization on costs borne by patients. Such information is valuable for economic evaluations of anti-retroviral therapy programmes that take a societal perspective. We compared costs reported by patients who received care in an urban centralized programme to those in the same district who received care through rural decentralized care (DC).
Methods
A cross-sectional survey on patient characteristics and costs associated with accessing HIV care was conducted, in May 2010, on 120 patients in centralized care (CC) at a tertiary referral hospital and 120 patients in DC at five rural health centres in Zomba District, Malawi. Differences in costs borne by each group were compared using χ2 and t-tests, and a regression model was developed to adjust for confounders, using bootstrapping to address skewed cost data.
Results
There was no significant difference between the groups with respect to sex and age. However, there were significant differences in socio-economic status, with higher educational attainment (p<0.001), personal income (p=0.007) and household income per person (p=0.005) in CC. Travel times were similar (p=0.65), as was time waiting at the clinic (p=0.63) and total time spent seeking care (p=0.65). There was a significant difference in travel-related expenses (p<0.001) related to the type of travel participants noted that they used. In CC, 60% of participants reported using a mini-bus to reach the clinic; in DC only 4% reported using a mini-bus, and the remainder reported travelling on foot or by bicycle. There were no significant differences between the groups in the amount of lost income reported or other out-of-pocket costs. Approximately 91 Malawi Kwacha (95% confidence intervals: 1–182 MKW) or US$0.59 represents the adjusted difference in total costs per visit between CC and DC.
Conclusions
Even within a system of HIV/AIDS care where patients do not pay to see clinicians or for most medications, they still incur costs. We found that most costs are travel related. This has important implications for poorer patients who live at a distance from health facilities for whom these costs may be significant.
doi:10.7448/IAS.16.1.18055
PMCID: PMC3604364  PMID: 23517716
antiretroviral therapy; highly active; costs and cost analysis; Malawi; HIV; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
5.  Evaluating a streamlined clinical tool and educational outreach intervention for health care workers in Malawi: the PALM PLUS case study 
Background
Nearly 3 million people in resource-poor countries receive antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, yet millions more require treatment. Key barriers to treatment scale up are shortages of trained health care workers, and challenges integrating HIV/AIDS care with primary care.
The research
PALM PLUS (Practical Approach to Lung Health and HIV/AIDS in Malawi) is an intervention designed to simplify and integrate existing Malawian national guidelines into a single, simple, user-friendly guideline for mid-level health care workers. Training utilizes a peer-to-peer educational outreach approach. Research is being undertaken to evaluate this intervention to generate evidence that will guide future decision-making for consideration of roll out in Malawi. The research consists of a cluster randomized trial in 30 public health centres in Zomba District that measures the effect of the intervention on staff satisfaction and retention, quality of patient care, and costs through quantitative, qualitative and health economics methods.
Results and outcomes
In the first phase of qualitative inquiry respondents from intervention sites demonstrated in-depth knowledge of PALM PLUS compared to those from control sites. Participants in intervention sites felt that the PALM PLUS tool empowered them to provide better health services to patients. Interim staff retention data shows that there were, on average, 3 to 4 staff departing from the control and intervention sites per month. Additional qualitative, quantitative and economic analyses are planned.
The partnership
Dignitas International and the Knowledge Translation Unit at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute have led the adaptation and development of the PALM PLUS intervention, using experience gained through the implementation of the South African precursor, PALSA PLUS. The Malawian partners, REACH Trust and the Research Unit at the Ministry of Health, have led the qualitative and economic evaluations. Dignitas and Ministry of Health have facilitated interaction with implementers and policy-makers.
Challenges and successes
This initiative is an example of South-South knowledge translation between South Africa and Malawi, mediated by a Canadian academic-NGO hybrid. Our success in developing and rolling out PALM PLUS in Malawi suggests that it is possible to adapt and implement this intervention for use in other resource-limited settings.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S2-S11
PMCID: PMC3247831  PMID: 22166125
6.  From PALSA PLUS to PALM PLUS: adapting and developing a South African guideline and training intervention to better integrate HIV/AIDS care with primary care in rural health centers in Malawi 
Background
Only about one-third of eligible HIV/AIDS patients receive anti-retroviral treatment (ART). Decentralizing treatment is crucial to wider and more equitable access, but key obstacles are a shortage of trained healthcare workers (HCW) and challenges integrating HIV/AIDS care with other primary care. This report describes the development of a guideline and training program (PALM PLUS) designed to integrate HIV/AIDS care with other primary care in Malawi. PALM PLUS was adapted from PALSA PLUS, developed in South Africa, and targets middle-cadre HCWs (clinical officers, nurses, and medical assistants). We adapted it to align with Malawi's national treatment protocols, more varied healthcare workforce, and weaker health system infrastructure.
Methods/Design
The international research team included the developers of the PALSA PLUS program, key Malawi-based team members and personnel from national and district level Ministry of Health (MoH), professional associations, and an international non-governmental organization. The PALSA PLUS guideline was extensively revised based on Malawi national disease-specific guidelines. Advice and input was sought from local clinical experts, including middle-cadre personnel, as well as Malawi MoH personnel and representatives of Malawian professional associations.
Results
An integrated guideline adapted to Malawian protocols for adults with respiratory conditions, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other primary care conditions was developed. The training program was adapted to Malawi's health system and district-level supervision structure. PALM PLUS is currently being piloted in a cluster-randomized trial in health centers in Malawi (ISRCTN47805230).
Discussion
The PALM PLUS guideline and training intervention targets primary care middle-cadre HCWs with the objective of improving HCW satisfaction and retention, and the quality of patient care. Successful adaptations are feasible, even across health systems as different as those of South Africa and Malawi.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-6-82
PMCID: PMC3162564  PMID: 21791048
7.  Strengthening health human resources and improving clinical outcomes through an integrated guideline and educational outreach in resource-poor settings: a cluster-randomized trial 
Trials  2010;11:118.
Background
In low-income countries, only about a third of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) patients eligible for anti-retroviral treatment currently receive it. Providing decentralized treatment close to where patients live is crucial to a faster scale up, however, a key obstacle is limited health system capacity due to a shortage of trained health-care workers and challenges of integrating HIV/AIDS care with other primary care services (e.g. tuberculosis, malaria, respiratory conditions). This study will test an adapted primary care health care worker training and guideline intervention, Practical Approach to Lung Health and HIV/AIDS Malawi (PALM PLUS), on staff retention and satisfaction, and quality of patient care.
Methods/Design
A cluster-randomized trial design is being used to compare usual care with a standardized clinical guideline and training intervention, PALM PLUS. The intervention targets middle-cadre health care workers (nurses, clinical officers, medical assistants) in 30 rural primary care health centres in a single district in Malawi. PALM PLUS is an integrated, symptom-based and user-friendly guideline consistent with Malawian national treatment protocols. Training is standardized and based on an educational outreach approach. Trainers will be front-line peer healthcare workers trained to provide outreach training and support to their fellow front-line healthcare workers during focused (1-2 hours), intermittent, interactive sessions on-site in health centers. Primary outcomes are health care worker retention and satisfaction. Secondary outcomes are clinical outcomes measured at the health centre level for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and other primary care conditions. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals for outcomes will be presented. Assessment of outcomes will occur at 1 year post- implementation.
Discussion
The PALM PLUS trial aims to address a key problem: strengthening middle-cadre health care workers to support the broader scale up of HIV/AIDS services and their integration into primary care. The trial will test whether the PALM PLUS intervention improves staff satisfaction and retention, as well as the quality of patient care, when compared to usual practice.
Trial Registration
Current controlled Trials: ISRCTN47805230
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-11-118
PMCID: PMC3017521  PMID: 21129211

Results 1-7 (7)