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1.  Innovative Community-Based Approaches Doubled Tuberculosis Case Notification and Improve Treatment Outcome in Southern Ethiopia 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63174.
Background
TB Control Programmes rely on passive case-finding to detect cases. TB notification remains low in Ethiopia despite major expansion of health services. Poor rural communities face many barriers to service access.
Methods and Findings
A community-based intervention package was implemented in Sidama zone, Ethiopia. The package included advocacy, training, engaging stakeholders and communities and active case-finding by female Health Extension Workers (HEWs) at village level. HEWs conducted house-to-house visits, identified individuals with a cough for two or more weeks, with or without other symptoms, collected sputum, prepared smears and supervised treatment. Supervisors transported smears for microscopy, started treatment, screened contacts and initiated Isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) for children. Outcomes were compared with the pre-implementation period and a control zone. Qualitative research was conducted to understand community and provider perceptions and experiences.
HEWs screened 49,857 symptomatic individuals (60% women) from October 2010 to December 2011. 2,262 (4·5%) had smear-positive TB (53% women). Case notification increased from 64 to 127/100,000 population/year resulting in 5,090 PTB+ and 7,071 cases of all forms of TB. Of 8,005 contacts visited, 1,949 were symptomatic, 1,290 symptomatic were tested and 69 diagnosed with TB. 1,080 children received IPT. Treatment success for smear-positive TB increased from 77% to 93% and treatment default decreased from 11% to 3%. Service users and providers found the intervention package highly acceptable.
Conclusions
Community-based interventions made TB diagnostic and treatment services more accessible to the poor, women, elderly and children, doubling the notification rate and improving treatment outcome. This approach could improve TB diagnosis and treatment in other high burden settings.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063174
PMCID: PMC3664633  PMID: 23723975
2.  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
3.  Transactional sex and HIV: understanding the gendered structural drivers of HIV in fishing communities in Southern Malawi 
Background
In Southern Malawi, the fishing industry is highly gendered, with men carrying out the fishing and women processing, drying and selling the fish. Research has shown that individuals living in fishing communities in low-income countries are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. One of the key drivers of HIV in fishing communities is transactional sex. In the fishing industry this takes the form of “fish-for-sex” networks where female fish traders exchange sex with fishermen for access to or more favourable prices of fish. By controlling the means of production, the power dynamics in these exchanges favour men and can make it more difficult for women to negotiate safe sex.
Methods
Qualitative methods were used to collect data on gendered drivers of transactional sex in the fishing community and how different groups perceive HIV risk in these transactions. Observation, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews were undertaken with members of the fishing communities, including men and women directly and indirectly involved in fishing.
Results
In fishing communities transactional sex was prevalent across a spectrum ranging from gift giving within relationships, to sex for fish exchanges, to sex worker encounters. Power differences between couples in transactional sexual encounters shape individual’s abilities to negotiate condom use (with women being at a particularly disadvantaged negotiating position). The context and motivations for transactional sex varied and was mediated by economic need and social position both of men and women. Female fish traders new to the industry and boat crew members who travelled for work and experienced difficult living conditions often engaged in transactional sex.
Conclusions
Transactional sex is common in Malawian fishing communities, with women particularly vulnerable in negotiations because of existing gendered power structures. Although knowledge and understanding of the HIV risk associated with transactional sex was common, this did not appear to result in the adoption of risk reduction strategies. This suggests that specially targeted strategies to increase women’s economic empowerment and tackle the structural drivers of women’s HIV risk could be important in fishing communities.
doi:10.7448/IAS.15.3.17364
PMCID: PMC3499929  PMID: 22713352
transactional sex; gender power relations; fishing communities; HIV
5.  Operationalising sexual and reproductive health and rights in sub-Saharan Africa: constraints, dilemmas and strategies 
Background
The continued poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa highlight the difficulties in reforming policies and laws, and implementing effective programmes. This paper uses one international and two national case studies to reflect on the challenges, dilemmas and strategies used in operationalising sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in different African contexts.
Methods
The international case study focuses on the progress made by African countries in implementing the African Union’s Maputo Plan of Action (for the Operationalisation of the Continental Policy Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) and the experiences of state and non-state stakeholders in this process. The case was developed from an evaluation report of the progress made by nine African countries in implementing the Plan of Action, qualitative interviews exploring stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of the operationalisation of the plan (carried out as part of the evaluation) in Botswana and Nigeria, and authors’ reflections. The first national case study explores the processes involved in influencing Ghana’s Domestic Violence Act passed in 2007; developed from a review of scientific papers and organisational publications on the processes involved in influencing the Act, qualitative interview data and authors’ reflections. The second national case study examines the experiences with introducing the 2006 Sexual Offences Act in Kenya, and it is developed from organisational publications on the processes of enacting the Act and a review of media reports on the debates and passing of the Act.
Results
Based on the three cases, we argue that prohibitive laws and governments’ reluctance to institute and implement comprehensive rights approaches to SRH, lack of political leadership and commitment to funding SRHR policies and programmes, and dominant negative cultural framing of women’s issues present the major obstacles to operationalising SRH rights. Analysis of successes points to the strategies for tackling these challenges, which include forming and working through strategic coalitions, employing strategic framing of SRHR issues to counter opposition and gain support, collaborating with government, and employing strategic opportunism.
Conclusion
The strategies identified show future pathways through which challenges to the realisation of SRHR in Africa can be tackled.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-11-S3-S8
PMCID: PMC3287464  PMID: 22376197
6.  A qualitative exploration of the human resource policy implications of voluntary counselling and testing scale-up in Kenya: applying a model for policy analysis 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:812.
Background
Kenya experienced rapid scale up of HIV testing and counselling services in government health services from 2001. We set out to examine the human resource policy implications of scaling up HIV testing and counselling in Kenya and to analyse the resultant policy against a recognised theoretical framework of health policy reform (policy analysis triangle).
Methods
Qualitative methods were used to gain in-depth insights from policy makers who shaped scale up. This included 22 in-depth interviews with Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) task force members, critical analysis of 53 sets of minutes and diary notes. We explore points of consensus and conflict amongst policymakers in Kenya and analyse this content to assess who favoured and resisted new policies, how scale up was achieved and the importance of the local context in which scale up occurred.
Results
The scale up of VCT in Kenya had a number of human resource policy implications resulting from the introduction of lay counsellors and their authorisation to conduct rapid HIV testing using newly introduced rapid testing technologies. Our findings indicate that three key groups of actors were critical: laboratory professionals, counselling associations and the Ministry of Health. Strategic alliances between donors, NGOs and these three key groups underpinned the process. The process of reaching consensus required compromise and time commitment but was critical to a unified nationwide approach. Policies around quality assurance were integral in ensuring standardisation of content and approach.
Conclusion
The introduction and scale up of new health service initiatives such as HIV voluntary counselling and testing necessitates changes to existing health systems and modification of entrenched interests around professional counselling and laboratory testing. Our methodological approach enabled exploration of complexities of scale up of HIV testing and counselling in Kenya. We argue that a better understanding of the diverse actors, the context and the process, is required to mitigate risks and maximise impact.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-812
PMCID: PMC3212939  PMID: 22008721
7.  LED Fluorescence Microscopy for the Diagnosis of Pulmonary Tuberculosis: A Multi-Country Cross-Sectional Evaluation 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001057.
This study, nested within a clinical trial, by Luis Cuevas and colleagues finds that LED-FM microscopy has higher sensitivity but lower specificity than Zn microscopy for detecting tuberculosis in sputum samples.
Background
The diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) in resource-limited settings relies on Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) smear microscopy. LED fluorescence microscopy (LED-FM) has many potential advantages over ZN smear microscopy, but requires evaluation in the field. The aim of this study was to assess the sensitivity/specificity of LED-FM for the diagnosis of pulmonary TB and whether its performance varies with the timing of specimen collection.
Methods and Findings
Adults with cough ≥2 wk were enrolled consecutively in Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, and Yemen. Sputum specimens were examined by ZN smear microscopy and LED-FM and compared with culture as the reference standard. Specimens were collected using a spot-morning-spot (SMS) or spot-spot-morning (SSM) scheme to explore whether the collection of the first two smears at the health care facility (i.e., “on the spot”) the first day of consultation followed by a morning sample the next day (SSM) would identify similar numbers of smear-positive patients as smears collected via the SMS scheme (i.e., one on-the-spot-smear the first day, followed by a morning specimen collected at home and a second on-the-spot sample the second day). In total, 529 (21.6%) culture-positive and 1,826 (74.6%) culture-negative patients were enrolled, of which 1,156 (49%) submitted SSM specimens and 1,199 (51%) submitted SMS specimens. Single LED-FM smears had higher sensitivity but lower specificity than single ZN smears. Using two LED-FM or two ZN smears per patient was 72.8% (385/529, 95% CI 68.8%–76.5%) and 65.8% (348/529, 95% CI 61.6%–69.8%) sensitive (p<0.001) and 90.9% (1,660/1,826, 95% CI 89.5%–92.2%) and 98% (1,790/1,826, 95% CI 97.3%–98.6%) specific (p<0.001). Using three LED-FM or three ZN smears per patient was 77% (408/529, 95% CI 73.3%–80.6%) and 70.5% (373/529, 95% CI 66.4%–74.4%, p<0.001) sensitive and 88.1% (95% CI 86.5%–89.6%) and 96.5% (95% CI 96.8%–98.2%, p<0.001) specific. The sensitivity/specificity of ZN smear microscopy and LED-FM did not vary between SMS and SSM.
Conclusions
LED-FM had higher sensitivity but, in this study, lower specificity than ZN smear microscopy for diagnosis of pulmonary TB. Performance was independent of the scheme used for collecting specimens. The introduction of LED-FM needs to be accompanied by appropriate training, quality management, and monitoring of performance in the field.
Trial Registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN53339491
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Tuberculosis is a global public health problem. Every year, about 1.7 million people die from this contagious bacterial infection, and about 9 million new cases occur, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis, is spread in airborne droplets when people with the disease cough or sneeze, and usually infects the lungs (pulmonary tuberculosis). Symptoms of tuberculosis include a persistent cough, weight loss, and night sweats. Because tuberculosis is easily transmitted and potentially deadly, it is important that it is diagnosed quickly and accurately and immediately treated. The “gold standard” diagnostic test for tuberculosis is mycobacterial culture (in liquid or solid medium), in which laboratory technicians try to grow M. tuberculosis from sputum (mucus brought up from the lungs by coughing). However, this test is expensive, so most patients suspected of having pulmonary tuberculosis in resource-limited countries are investigated using sputum smear microscopy. In this cheaper but less sensitive test, sputum samples are “smeared” onto microscope slides, stained with Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) dye, and then examined with a microscope for the presence of M. tuberculosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
With smear microscopy, multiple samples have to be examined to increase the test's sensitivity (the proportion of patients with culture-positive tuberculosis that the test detects). Because each smear examination takes up to 10 minutes, tuberculosis diagnosis with ZN smear microscopy creates a large laboratory workload. A variant form of smear microscopy—light-emitting-diode fluorescence microscopy (LED-FM)—could reduce this workload. With LED-FM, smears stained with a fluorescent dye can be examined in a quarter of the time it takes to examine ZN smears. In this study, the researchers evaluate the sensitivity and specificity (the proportion of people with a negative smear among people without tuberculosis; a high specificity indicates a low false-positive rate) of LED-FM using samples collected in a trial undertaken in four resource-limited countries (Ethiopia, Nepal, Nigeria, and Yemen) to investigate two schemes for sputum sample collection. In the spot-morning-spot (SMS) scheme, patients provide an on-the-spot specimen at their initial consultation, a specimen collected at home the next morning, and a second on-the-spot sample when they deliver their morning specimen. In the spot-spot-morning (SSM) scheme, patients provide two on-the-spot samples during their first clinic visit and a sample collected at home the next morning.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the main trial, the researchers collected sputum samples using the SMS or SSM scheme from 6,627 patients with a cough lasting more than two weeks. For their investigation of LED-FM, they examined nearly 2,400 samples (half SSM and half SMS specimens, about a quarter of which were tuberculosis culture-positive) with both ZN smear microscopy and LED-FM and determined the sensitivity and specificity of both tests—with one, two, or three sputum samples per patient—relative to mycobacterial solid culture. Single LED-FM smears had higher sensitivity but lower specificity than single ZN smears. The sensitivities of two LED-FM and two ZN smears were 72.8% and 65.8%, respectively; the specificities of these tests were 90.9% and 98.0%. The sensitivities of three LED-FM and three ZN smears were 77% and 70.5%, respectively; the specificities of these tests were 88.1% and 96.5%. The sensitivity and specificity of both tests was similar for samples collected using the SMS and the SSM schemes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in the resource-limited countries included in this trial, LED-FM has a higher sensitivity but lower specificity than ZN smear microscopy. The researchers calculate that in this study the accuracy of three LED-FM examinations was 85% (2,017 out of 2,355 patients were correctly classified as infected or uninfected), whereas the accuracy of three ZN smears was 91.8%. Thus, although LED-FM should identify more people with tuberculosis than ZN smear microscopy, because of its lower specificity, its use might also lead to more people without tuberculosis being needlessly treated for the disease. Nevertheless, provided that the introduction of LED-FM is accompanied by appropriate training and performance monitoring, LED-FM is an attractive potential tool for the laboratory diagnosis of tuberculosis that, together with a move towards the collection of two on-the-spot smears in a single clinic visit, could ensure that poor patients have access to timely tuberculosis diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001057.
Details of the parent trial in which the samples used in this study were collected are available in a PLoS Medicine Research Article by Cuevas et al.
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis, including information on tuberculosis diagnostics; recent WHO policy statements on diagnosis of tuberculosis are available; the Stop TB Partnership provides information on global tuberculosis control (some information in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about tuberculosis, including information on the diagnosis of tuberculosis disease
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also has detailed information on all aspects of tuberculosis
MedlinePlus has links to further information about tuberculosis (in English and Spanish)
A new Web site dedicated to the discussion and optimization of smear microscopy has recently been launched
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001057
PMCID: PMC3134458  PMID: 21765809
8.  Using research to influence sexual and reproductive health practice and implementation in Sub-Saharan Africa: a case-study analysis 
Health Research Policy and Systems  2011;9(Suppl 1):S10.
Background
Research institutions and donor organizations are giving growing attention to how research evidence is communicated to influence policy. In the area of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and HIV there is less weight given to understanding how evidence is successfully translated into practice. Policy issues in SRH can be controversial, influenced by political factors and shaped by context such as religion, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
Methods
The case-studies presented in this paper analyse findings from SRH/HIV research programmes in sub-Saharan Africa: 1) Maternal syphilis screening in Ghana, 2) Legislative change for sexual violence survivors In Ghana, 3) Male circumcision policy in South Africa, and 4) Male circumcision policy in Tanzania. Our analysis draws on two frameworks, Sumner et al’s synthesis approach and Nutley’s research use continuum.
Results
The analysis emphasises the relationships and communications involved in using research to influence policy and practice and recognises a distinction whereby practice is not necessarily influenced as a result of policy change – especially in SRH – where there are complex interactions between policy actors.
Conclusion
Both frameworks demonstrate how policy networks, partnership and advocacy are critical in shaping the extent to which research is used and the importance of on-going and continuous links between a range of actors to maximize research impact on policy uptake and implementation. The case-studies illustrate the importance of long-term engagement between researchers and policy makers and how to use evidence to develop policies which are sensitive to context: political, cultural and practical.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-S1-S10
PMCID: PMC3121127  PMID: 21679377
9.  Strengthening the research to policy and practice interface: exploring strategies used by research organisations working on sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS 
This commentary introduces the HARPS supplement on getting research into policy and practice in sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The papers in this supplement have been produced by the Sexual Health and HIV Evidence into Practice (SHHEP) collaboration of international research, practitioner and advocacy organizations based in research programmes funded by the UK Department for International Development.
The commentary describes the increasing interest from research and communication practitioners, policy makers and funders in expanding the impact of research on policy and practice. It notes the need for contextually embedded understanding of ways to engage multiple stakeholders in the politicized, sensitive and often contested arenas of sexual and reproductive health. The commentary then introduces the papers under their respective themes: (1) The theory and practice of research engagement (two global papers); (2) Applying policy analysis to explore the role of research evidence in SRH and HIV/AIDS policy (two papers with examples from Ghana, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia); (3) Strategies and methodologies for engagement (five papers on Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Swaziland respectively); (4) Advocacy and engagement to influence attitudes on controversial elements of sexual health (two papers, Bangladesh and global); and (5) Institutional approaches to inter-sectoral engagement for action and strengthening research communications (two papers, Ghana and global).
The papers illustrate the many forms research impact can take in the field of sexual and reproductive health. This includes discursive changes through carving out legitimate spaces for public debate; content changes such as contributing to changing laws and practices, procedural changes such as influencing how data on SRH are collected, and behavioural changes through partnerships with civil society actors such as advocacy groups and journalists.
The contributions to this supplement provide a body of critical analysis of communication and engagement strategies across the spectrum of SRH and HIV/AIDS research through the testing of different models for the research-to-policy interface. They provide new insights on how researchers and communication specialists can respond to changing policy climates to create windows of opportunity for influence.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC3121133  PMID: 21679383
10.  What shapes research impact on policy? Understanding research uptake in sexual and reproductive health policy processes in resource poor contexts 
Assessing the impact that research evidence has on policy is complex. It involves consideration of conceptual issues of what determines research impact and policy change. There are also a range of methodological issues relating to the question of attribution and the counter-factual. The dynamics of SRH, HIV and AIDS, like many policy arenas, are partly generic and partly issue- and context-specific. Against this background, this article reviews some of the main conceptualisations of research impact on policy, including generic determinants of research impact identified across a range of settings, as well as the specificities of SRH in particular. We find that there is scope for greater cross-fertilisation of concepts, models and experiences between public health researchers and political scientists working in international development and research impact evaluation. We identify aspects of the policy landscape and drivers of policy change commonly occurring across multiple sectors and studies to create a framework that researchers can use to examine the influences on research uptake in specific settings, in order to guide attempts to ensure uptake of their findings. This framework has the advantage that distinguishes between pre-existing factors influencing uptake and the ways in which researchers can actively influence the policy landscape and promote research uptake through their policy engagement actions and strategies. We apply this framework to examples from the case study papers in this supplement, with specific discussion about the dynamics of SRH policy processes in resource poor contexts. We conclude by highlighting the need for continued multi-sectoral work on understanding and measuring research uptake and for prospective approaches to receive greater attention from policy analysts.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-S1-S3
PMCID: PMC3121134  PMID: 21679384
11.  Strategies and tensions in communicating research on sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS: a qualitative study of the experiences of researchers and communications staff 
Background
Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and HIV issues are often controversial and neglected, leading to challenges with engaging policy actors. Research evidence is complex, posing further challenges for ensuring that policy and practice are evidence-based. Many health researchers are adopting innovative approaches to engaging stakeholders in their research, yet these experiences are not often shared. This qualitative study focuses on the research communication and policy influencing objectives, strategies and experiences of four research consortia working on SRH, HIV and AIDS.
Methods
We carried out 22 in-depth interviews with researchers and communications specialists (research actors) from the four consortia and their partners, working in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Using the ‘framework’ approach to qualitative data analysis, we identified factors that affect the interaction of research evidence with policy and practice. We used the ODI RAPID analytical framework to present these results, adapting this tool by incorporating the actions, strategies and positionality of research actors.
Results
The characteristics of researchers and their institutions, policy context, the multiplicity of actors, and the nature of the research evidence all play a role in policy influencing processes. Research actors perceived a trend towards increasingly intensive and varied communication approaches. Effective influencing strategies include making strategic alliances and coalitions and framing research evidence in ways that are most attractive to particular policy audiences. Tensions include the need to identify and avoid unnecessary communication or unintended impacts, challenges in assessing and attributing impact and the need for adequate resources and skills for communications work.
Conclusions
We contend that the adapted RAPID framework can serve as a tool for research actors to use in resolving these tensions, through facilitating a reflexive approach to considering their own combination of attributes, skills, networks and objectives and the ways these relate to policy contexts, actors and processes.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC3121135  PMID: 21679385
12.  Indicators of sustainable capacity building for health research: analysis of four African case studies 
Background
Despite substantial investment in health capacity building in developing countries, evaluations of capacity building effectiveness are scarce. By analysing projects in Africa that had successfully built sustainable capacity, we aimed to identify evidence that could indicate that capacity building was likely to be sustainable.
Methods
Four projects were selected as case studies using pre-determined criteria, including the achievement of sustainable capacity. By mapping the capacity building activities in each case study onto a framework previously used for evaluating health research capacity in Ghana, we were able to identify activities that were common to all projects. We used these activities to derive indicators which could be used in other projects to monitor progress towards building sustainable research capacity.
Results
Indicators of sustainable capacity building increased in complexity as projects matured and included
- early engagement of stakeholders; explicit plans for scale up; strategies for influencing policies; quality assessments (awareness and experiential stages)
- improved resources; institutionalisation of activities; innovation (expansion stage)
- funding for core activities secured; management and decision-making led by southern partners (consolidation stage).
Projects became sustainable after a median of 66 months. The main challenges to achieving sustainability were high turnover of staff and stakeholders, and difficulties in embedding new activities into existing systems, securing funding and influencing policy development.
Conclusions
Our indicators of sustainable capacity building need to be tested prospectively in a variety of projects to assess their usefulness. For each project the evidence required to show that indicators have been achieved should evolve with the project and they should be determined prospectively in collaboration with stakeholders.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-14
PMCID: PMC3078899  PMID: 21443780
13.  Yield of Smear Microscopy and Radiological Findings of Male and Female Patients with Tuberculosis in Abuja, Nigeria 
Objective. To describe the yield of smear-microscopy and radiological findings by male and female patients with symptoms of tuberculosis in Abuja, Nigeria. Methods. Patients ≥15 years old with cough for >3 weeks submitted 3 sputum samples for smear microscopy. One specimen was cultured using MGIT-960. All patients had lung X-rays and screened for HIV. Results. were more likely to be smear-positive than females (262/774 [34%] and 137/547 [25%], P < .01), but similar proportions of males and females were culture-positive (437/691 [63%] and 294/495 [59%], P = .09). 317/626 (50.6%) males and 249/419 (59.4%) females were HIV-positive (P < .005). Among culture-positives patients, HIV-infected males were less likely to have positive smears than HIV-negative males (49.2% versus 66%, P = .001). Among females, smear positivity did not vary with HIV (46.4% for HIV-positive and 52.9% for HIV-negative, P = .38). Of 274 culture-confirmed TB cases, 226 (82.5%) had cavities, and 271 (99%) had ≥1 lung areas affected. HIV-positive males were more likely to have lung cavities than HIV-positive females (85% versus 69%, P < .04) and to have ≥3 lung areas affected (P = .03). Conclusion. Differences in the yield of smear-microscopy, culture and X-rays on presentation are due to several factors including HIV coinfection and gender.
doi:10.1155/2010/241659
PMCID: PMC3335462  PMID: 22567256
14.  Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection: Views and perceptions about swallowing nevirapine in rural Lilongwe, Malawi 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:354.
Background
In 2006 the World Health Organization described the status of prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) service implementation as unacceptable, with an urgent need for a renewed public health approach to improve access. For PMTCT to be effective it needs to be accessible, acceptable and affordable; however research in Africa into accessibility, uptake and acceptability of PMTCT services has been predominately urban based and usually focusing on women who deliver in hospitals. The importance of involving other community members to strengthen both PMTCT uptake and adherence, and to support women emotionally, has been advocated. Urban men's and rural traditional birth attendants' (TBAs) involvement have improved uptake of HIV testing and of nevirapine.
Methods
A qualitative study was carried out in a rural district of Malawi's central region to explore the views about and perceptions of PMTCT antiretroviral treatment. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were held with antenatal and postnatal women, fathers, grandmothers, TBAs, community leaders and PMTCT health workers.
Results
Two broad themes of findings emerged: those that relate to the hospital PMTCT service, and those that relate to the community. Trust in the hospital was strong, but distance, transport costs and perceived harsh, threatening health worker attitudes were barriers to access. Grandmothers were perceived to have influence on the management of labour, unlike fathers, but both were suggested as key people to ensure that babies are brought to the hospital for nevirapine syrup. TBAs were seen as powerful, local, and important community members, but some as uneducated.
Conclusion
PMTCT was seen as a community issue in which more than the mother alone can be involved. To support access to PMTCT, especially for rural women, there is need for further innovation and implementation research on involving TBAs in some aspects of PMTCT services, and in negotiating with women which community members, if any, they would like to support them in ensuring that newborn babies receive nevirapine.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-354
PMCID: PMC2910675  PMID: 20565930
15.  Towards building equitable health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa: lessons from case studies on operational research 
Background
Published practical examples of how to bridge gaps between research, policy and practice in health systems research in Sub Saharan Africa are scarce. The aim of our study was to use a case study approach to analyse how and why different operational health research projects in Africa have contributed to health systems strengthening and promoted equity in health service provision.
Methods
Using case studies we have collated and analysed practical examples of operational research projects on health in Sub-Saharan Africa which demonstrate how the links between research, policy and action can be strengthened to build effective and pro-poor health systems. To ensure rigour, we selected the case studies using pre-defined criteria, mapped their characteristics systematically using a case study development framework, and analysed the research impact process of each case study using the RAPID framework for research-policy links. This process enabled analysis of common themes, successes and weaknesses.
Results
3 operational research projects met our case study criteria: HIV counselling and testing services in Kenya; provision of TB services in grocery stores in Malawi; and community diagnostics for anaemia, TB and malaria in Nigeria. Political context and external influences: in each case study context there was a need for new knowledge and approaches to meet policy requirements for equitable service delivery. Collaboration between researchers and key policy players began at the inception of operational research cycles. Links: critical in these operational research projects was the development of partnerships for capacity building to support new services or new players in service delivery. Evidence: evidence was used to promote policy dialogue around equity in different ways throughout the research cycle, such as in determining the topic area and in development of indicators.
Conclusion
Building equitable health systems means considering equity at different stages of the research cycle. Partnerships for capacity building promotes demand, delivery and uptake of research. Links with those who use and benefit from research, such as communities, service providers and policy makers, contribute to the timeliness and relevance of the research agenda and a receptive research-policy-practice interface. Our study highlights the need to advocate for a global research culture that values and funds these multiple levels of engagement.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-7-26
PMCID: PMC2789709  PMID: 19939279
16.  Supporting children to adhere to anti-retroviral therapy in urban Malawi: multi method insights 
BMC Pediatrics  2009;9:45.
Background
Ensuring good adherence is critical to the success of anti-retroviral treatment (ART). However, in resource-poor contexts, where paediatric HIV burden is high there has been limited progress in developing or adapting tools to support adherence for HIV-infected children on ART and their caregivers. We conducted formative research to assess children's adherence and to explore the knowledge, perceptions and attitudes of caregivers towards children's treatment.
Methods
All children starting ART between September 2002 and January 2004 (when ART was at cost in Malawi) were observed for at least 6 months on ART. Their adherence was assessed quantitatively by asking caregivers of children about missed ART doses during the previous 3 days at monthly visits. Attendance to clinic appointments was also monitored. In June and July 2004, four focus group discussions, each with 6 to 8 caregivers, and 5 critical incident narratives were conducted to provide complementary contextual data on caregivers' experiences on the challenges to and opportunities of paediatric ART adherence.
Results
We followed prospectively 47 children who started ART between 8 months and 12 years of age over a median time on ART of 33 weeks (2–91 weeks). 72% (34/47) never missed a single dose according to caregivers' report and 82% (327/401) of clinic visits were either as scheduled, or before or within 1 week after the scheduled appointment. Caregivers were generally knowledgeable about ART and motivated to support children to adhere to treatment despite facing multiple challenges. Caregivers were particularly motivated by seeing children begin to get better; but faced challenges in meeting the costs of medicine and transport, waiting times in clinic, stock outs and remembering to support children to adhere in the face of multiple responsibilities.
Conclusion
In the era of rapid scale-up of treatment for children there is need for holistic support strategies that focus on the child, the caregiver and the health worker and which are situated within the reality of fragile health systems. The findings highlight the need for cost-free and less complex paediatric ART regimes and culturally appropriate tools to support children's adherence.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-9-45
PMCID: PMC2717958  PMID: 19602251
17.  Who has access to counseling and testing and anti-retroviral therapy in Malawi – an equity analysis 
Background
The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Malawi poses multiple challenges from an equity perspective. It is estimated that 12% of Malawians are living with HIV or AIDS among the 15-49 age group. This paper synthesises available information to bring an equity lens on Counselling and Testing (CT) and Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) policy, practice and provision in Malawi.
Methods
A synthesis of a wide range of published and unpublished reports and studies using a variety of methodological approaches was undertaken. The analysis and recommendations were developed, through consultation with key stakeholders in Malawi.
Findings
At the policy level Malawi is unique in having an equity in access to ART policy, and equity considerations are also included in key CT documents. The number of people accessing CT has increased considerably from 149,540 in 2002 to 482,364 in 2005. There is urban bias in provision of CT and more women than men access CT. ART has been provided free since June 2004 and scale up of ART provision is gathering pace. By end December 2006, there were 85,168 patients who had ever started on ART in both the public and private health sector, 39% of the patients were male while 61% were female. The majority of patients were adults, and 7% were children, aged 14 years or below. Despite free ART services, patients, especially poor rural patients face significant barriers in access and adherence to services. There are missed opportunities in strengthening integration between CT and ART and TB, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and maternal health services.
Conclusion
To promote equitable access for CT and ART in Malawi there is need to further invest in human resources for health, and seize opportunities to integrate CT and ART services with tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections and maternal health services. This should not only promote access to services but also ensure that resources available for CT and ART strengthen rather than undermine the provision of the essential health package in Malawi. Ongoing equity analysis of services is important in analyzing which groups are unrepresented in services and developing initiatives to address these. Creative models of decentralization, whilst maintaining quality of services are needed to further enhance access of poor rural women, men, girls and boys.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-8-13
PMCID: PMC2683850  PMID: 19416512
18.  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
20.  EVOLVING FRIENDSHIPS AND SHIFTING ETHICAL DILEMMAS: FIELDWORKERS' EXPERIENCES IN A SHORT TERM COMMUNITY BASED STUDY IN KENYA 
Developing World Bioethics  2013;13(1):1-9.
Fieldworkers (FWs) are community members employed by research teams to support access to participants, address language barriers, and advise on culturally appropriate research conduct. The critical role that FWs play in studies, and the range of practical and ethical dilemmas associated with their involvement, is increasingly recognised. In this paper, we draw on qualitative observation and interview data collected alongside a six month basic science study which involved a team of FWs regularly visiting 47 participating households in their homes. The qualitative study documented how relationships between field workers and research participants were initiated, developed and evolved over the course of the study, the shifting dilemmas FWs faced and how they handled them. Even in this one case study, we see how the complex and evolving relationships between fieldworkers and study participants had important implications for consent processes, access to benefits and mutual understanding and trust. While the precise issues that FWs face are likely to depend on the type of research and the context in which that research is being conducted, we argue that appropriate support for field workers is a key requirement to strengthen ethical research practice and for the long term sustainability of research programmes.
doi:10.1111/dewb.12009
PMCID: PMC3662996  PMID: 23433316
field workers; research ethics; social relations; developing countries; benefit sharing; consent processes; household studies

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