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1.  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
2.  Mortality and Health Outcomes of HIV-Exposed and Unexposed Children in a PMTCT Cohort in Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47337.
Background
Mortality and morbidity among HIV-exposed children are thought to be high in Malawi. We sought to determine mortality and health outcomes of HIV-exposed and unexposed infants within a PMTCT program.
Method
Data were collected as part of a retrospective cohort study in Zomba District, Malawi. HIV-infected mothers were identified via antenatal, delivery and postpartum records with a delivery date 18–20 months prior; the next registered HIV-uninfected mother was identified as a control. By interview and health record review, data on socio-demographic characteristics, service uptake, and health outcomes were collected. HIV-testing was offered to all exposed children.
Results
173 HIV-infected and 214 uninfected mothers were included. 4 stillbirths (1.0%) occurred; among the 383 livebirths, 41 (10.7%) children died by 20 months (32 (18.7%) HIV-exposed and 9 unexposed children (4.3%; p<0.0001)). Risk factors for child death included: HIV-exposure [adjOR2.9(95%CI 1.1–7.2)], low birthweight [adjOR2.5(1.0–6.3)], previous child death (adjOR25.1(6.5–97.5)] and maternal death [adjOR5.3(11.4–20.5)]. At 20 months, HIV-infected children had significantly poorer health outcomes than HIV-unexposed children and HIV-exposed but uninfected children (HIV-EU), including: hospital admissions, delayed development, undernutrition and restrictions in function (Lansky scale); no significant differences were seen between HIV-EU and HIV-unexposed children. Overall, no difference was seen at 20 months among HIV-infected, HIV-EU and HIV-unexposed groups in Z-scores (%<−2.0) for weight, height and BMI. Risk factors for poor functional health status at 20 months included: HIV-infection [adjOR8.9(2.4–32.6)], maternal illness [adjOR2.8(1.5–5.0)] and low birthweight [adjOR2.0(1.0–4.1)].
Conclusion
Child mortality remains high within this context and could be reduced through more effective PMTCT including prioritizing the treatment of maternal HIV infection to address the effect of maternal health and survival on infant health and survival. HIV-infected children demonstrated developmental delays, functional health and nutritional deficits that underscore the need for increased uptake of early infant diagnosis and institution of ART for all infected infants.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047337
PMCID: PMC3474798  PMID: 23082157
3.  Involving expert patients in antiretroviral treatment provision in a tertiary referral hospital HIV clinic in Malawi 
Background
Current antiretroviral treatment (ART) models in Africa are labour intensive and require a high number of skilled staff. In the context of constraints in human resources for health, task shifting is considered a feasible alternative for ART service delivery. In 2006, Dignitas International in partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health trained a cadre of expert patients at the HIV Clinic at a tertiary referral hospital in Zomba, Malawi. Expert patients were trained to assist with clinic tasks including measurement of vital signs, anthropometry and counseling.
Methods
A descriptive observational study using mixed methods was conducted two years after the start of program implementation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 patients, seven expert patients and six formal health care providers to explore perceptions towards the expert patients’ contributions in the clinic. Structured exit interviews with 81 patients, assessed whether essential ART information was conveyed during counseling sessions. Vital signs and anthropometry measurements performed by expert patients were repeated by a nurse to assess accuracy of measurements. Direct observations quantified the time spent with each patient.
Results
There were minor differences in measurement of patients’ weight, height and temperature between the expert patients and the nurse. The majority of patients exiting a counseling session reported, without prompting, at least three side effects of ART, correct actions to be taken on observing a side-effect, and correct consequences of non-adherence to ART. Expert patients carried out 368 hours of nurse tasks each month, saving two and a half full-time nurse equivalents per month. Formal health care workers and patients accept and value expert patients’ involvement in ART provision and care. Expert patients felt valued by patients for being a ‘role model’, or a ‘model of hope’, promoting positive living and adherence to ART.
Conclusions
Expert patients add value to the ART services at a tertiary referral HIV clinic in Malawi. Expert patients carry out shifted tasks acceptably, saving formal health staff time, and also act as ‘living testimonies’ of the benefits of ART and can be a means of achieving greater involvement of People Living with HIV in HIV treatment programs.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-140
PMCID: PMC3439714  PMID: 22681872
Task Shifting; Expert patients; Antiretroviral treatment; Malawi
4.  Uptake and outcomes of a prevention-of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program in Zomba district, Malawi 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:426.
Background
HIV prevalence among pregnant women in Malawi is 12.6%, and mother-to-child transmission is a major route of transmission. As PMTCT services have expanded in Malawi in recent years, we sought to determine uptake of services, HIV-relevant infant feeding practices and mother-child health outcomes.
Methods
A matched-cohort study of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected mothers and their infants at 18-20 months post-partum in Zomba District, Malawi. 360 HIV-infected and 360 HIV-uninfected mothers were identified through registers. 387 mother-child pairs were included in the study.
Results
10% of HIV-infected mothers were on HAART before delivery, 27% by 18-20 months post-partum. sd-NVP was taken by 75% of HIV-infected mothers not on HAART, and given to 66% of infants. 18% of HIV-infected mothers followed all current recommended PMTCT options. HIV-infected mothers breastfed fewer months than HIV-uninfected mothers (12 vs.18, respectively; p < 0.01). 19% of exposed versus 5% of unexposed children had died by 18-20 months; p < 0.01. 28% of exposed children had been tested for HIV prior to the study, 76% were tested as part of the study and 11% were found HIV-positive. HIV-free survival by 18-20 months was 66% (95%CI 58-74). There were 11(6%) maternal deaths among HIV-infected mothers only.
Conclusion
This study shows low PMTCT program efficiency and effectiveness under routine program conditions in Malawi. HIV-free infant survival may have been influenced by key factors, including underuse of HAART, underuse of sd-NVP, and suboptimal infant feeding practices. Maternal mortality among HIV-infected women demands attention; improved maternal survival is a means to improve infant survival.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-426
PMCID: PMC3126744  PMID: 21639873
5.  Fatal pulmonary Mycobacterium xenopi in a patient with rheumatoid arthritis receiving etanercept 
Thorax  2007;62(8):739-740.
Mycobacterium xenopi is a water‐related mycobacterium with low pathogenicity in humans. Little is known about the association between anti‐tumour necrosis factor (TNF)α and non‐tuberculous mycobacterial infections. The case history is presented of fatal M xenopi infection in a patient receiving anti‐TNFα treatment.
doi:10.1136/thx.2005.056952
PMCID: PMC2117264  PMID: 17687101
7.  Six-Month Mortality among HIV-Infected Adults Presenting for Antiretroviral Therapy with Unexplained Weight Loss, Chronic Fever or Chronic Diarrhea in Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48856.
Background
In sub-Saharan Africa, early mortality is high following initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART). We investigated 6-month outcomes and factors associated with mortality in HIV-infected adults being assessed for ART initiation and presenting with weight loss, chronic fever or diarrhea, and with negative TB sputum microscopy.
Methods
A prospective cohort study was conducted in Malawi, investigating mortality in relation to ART uptake, microbiological findings and treatment of opportunistic infection (OIs), 6 months after meeting ART eligibility criteria.
Results
Of 469 consecutive adults eligible for ART, 74(16%) died within 6 months of enrolment, at a median of 41 days (IQR 20–81). 370(79%) started ART at a median time of 18 days (IQR 7–40) after enrolment. Six-month case-fatality rates were higher in patients with OIs; 25/121(21%) in confirmed/clinical TB and 10/50(20%) with blood stream infection (BSI) compared to 41/308(13%) in patients with no infection identified. Median TB treatment start was 27 days (IQR 17–65) after enrolment and mortality [8 deaths (44%)] was significantly higher among 18 culture-positive patients with delayed TB diagnosis compared to patients diagnosed clinically and treated promptly with subsequent culture confirmation [6/34 (18%);p = 0.04]. Adjusted multivariable analysis, excluding deaths in the first 21 days, showed weight loss >10%, low CD4 count, severe anemia, laboratory-only TB diagnosis, and not initiating ART to be independently associated with increased risk of death.
Conclusions
Mortality remains high among chronically ill patients eligible for ART. Prompt initiation of ART is vital: more than half of deaths were among patients who never started ART. Diagnostic and treatment delay for TB was strongly associated with risk of death. More than half of deaths occurred without identification of a specific infection. ART programmes need access to rapid point-of-care-diagnostic tools for OIs. The role of early empiric OI treatment in this population requires further evaluation in clinical trials.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048856
PMCID: PMC3501502  PMID: 23185278
8.  Mortality and Health Outcomes in HIV-Infected and HIV-Uninfected Mothers at 18–20 Months Postpartum in Zomba District, Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44396.
Background
Maternal morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected women is a global concern. This study compared mortality and health outcomes of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected mothers at 18–20 months postpartum within routine prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in a rural district in Malawi.
Methods
A retrospective cohort study of mother-child dyads at 18–20 months postpartum in Zomba District. Data on socio-demographic characteristics, service uptake, maternal health outcomes and biometric parameters were collected.
Results
173 HIV-infected and 214 HIV-uninfected mothers were included. HIV-specific cohort mortality at 18–20 months postpartum was 42.4 deaths/1000 person-years; no deaths occurred among HIV-uninfected women. Median time to death was 11 months post-partum (range 3–19). Women ranked their health on a comparative qualitative scale; HIV-infected women perceived their health to be poorer than did HIV-uninfected women (RR 2.4; 95% CI 1.6–3.7). Perceived maternal health status was well correlated with an objective measure of functional status (Karnofsky scale; p<0.001). HIV-infected women were more likely to report minor (RR 3.8; 95% CI 2.3–6.4) and major (RR 6.2; 95% CI 2.2–17.7) signs or symptoms of disease. In multivariable analysis, HIV-infected women remained twice as likely to report poorer health [adjusted OR (aOR) 2.3; 95% CI 1.4–3.6], as did women with low BMI (aOR 2.1; 95% CI 1.1–4.0) and scoring lowest on the welfare scale (aOR 2.0; 95% CI 1.1–3.8).
Conclusions
HIV-infected women show increased mortality and morbidity at 18–20 months postpartum. In our rural Malawian operational setting, where there is documented under-application of ART and poor adherence to PMTCT services, these results support attention to optimizing maternal participation in PMTCT programs.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044396
PMCID: PMC3433431  PMID: 22973443
9.  High Prevalence of Tuberculosis and Serious Bloodstream Infections in Ambulatory Individuals Presenting for Antiretroviral Therapy in Malawi 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39347.
Background
Tuberculosis (TB) and serious bloodstream infections (BSI) may contribute to the high early mortality observed among patients qualifying for antiretroviral therapy (ART) with unexplained weight loss, chronic fever or chronic diarrhea.
Methods and Findings
A prospective cohort study determined the prevalence of undiagnosed TB or BSI among ambulatory HIV-infected adults with unexplained weight loss and/or chronic fever, or diarrhea in two routine program settings in Malawi. Subjects with positive expectorated sputum smears for AFB were excluded. Investigations Bacterial and mycobacterial blood cultures, cryptococcal antigen test (CrAg), induced sputum (IS) for TB microscopy and solid culture, full blood count and CD4 lymphocyte count. Among 469 subjects, 52 (11%) had microbiological evidence of TB; 50 (11%) had a positive (non-TB) blood culture and/or positive CrAg. Sixty-five additional TB cases were diagnosed on clinical and radiological grounds. Nontyphoidal Salmonellae (NTS) were the most common blood culture pathogens (29 cases; 6% of participants and 52% of bloodstream isolates). Multivariate analysis of baseline clinical and hematological characteristics found significant independent associations between oral candidiasis or lymphadenopathy and TB, marked CD4 lymphopenia and NTS infection, and severe anemia and either infection, but low positive likelihood ratios (<2 for all combinations).
Conclusions
We observed a high prevalence of TB and serious BSI, particularly NTS, in a program cohort of chronically ill HIV-infected outpatients. Baseline clinical and hematological characteristics were inadequate predictors of infection. HIV clinics need better rapid screening tools for TB and BSI. Clinical trials to evaluate empiric TB or NTS treatment are required in similar populations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039347
PMCID: PMC3382251  PMID: 22761767
10.  Outcome Assessment of a Dedicated HIV Positive Health Care Worker Clinic at a Central Hospital in Malawi: A Retrospective Observational Study 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19789.
Background
Malawi has one of the world's lowest densities of Health Care Workers (HCW) per capita. This study evaluates outcomes of a dedicated HCW HIV clinic in Malawi, created at Zomba Central Hospital in January 2007.
Methods and Findings
Retrospective cohort data was analyzed comparing HCW clinic patient baseline characteristics and treatment outcomes at 18 months after inception, against those attending the general HIV clinic. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted to explore perceptions of patients and caregivers regarding program value, level of awareness and barriers for uptake amongst HCW. 306 patients were enrolled on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the HCW HIV clinic, 6784 in the general clinic. Significantly (p<0.01) more HCW clients were initiated on ART on the basis of CD4 as opposed to WHO Stage 3/4 (36% vs.23%). Significantly fewer HCW clients defaulted (6% vs.17%), and died (4% vs.12%). The dedicated HCW HIV clinic was perceived as important and convenient in terms of reduced waiting times, and prompt and high quality care. Improved confidentiality was an appreciated quality of the HCW clinic however barriers included fear of being recognized.
Conclusions/Significance
Outcomes at the HCW clinic appear better compared to the general HIV clinic. The strategy of dedicated clinics to care for health providers is a means of HIV impact mitigation within human resource constrained health systems in high prevalence settings.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019789
PMCID: PMC3098249  PMID: 21625545

Results 1-10 (10)