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Challenges and opportunities for outreach workers in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program in India
The Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program in India is one of the largest in the world. It uses outreach workers (ORWs) to facilitate patient uptake of services, however, the challenges faced by the ORWs, and their views about the effectiveness of this program are unknown.
The COMmunity-Home Based INDia (COMBIND) Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV study evaluated an integrated mobile health and behavioral intervention to enhance the capacity of ORWs in India. To understand the challenges faced by ORWs, and their perceptions of opportunities for program improvement, four group discussions were conducted among 60 ORW from four districts of Maharashtra, India, as part of the baseline assessment for COMBIND. Data were qualitatively analyzed using a thematic approach.
Numerous personal-, social-, and structural-level challenges existed for ORW as they engaged with their patients. Personal-level challenges for ORWs included disclosure of their own HIV status and travelling costs for home visits. Personal-level challenges for patients included financial costs of travelling to ART centers, non-adherence to ART, loss of daily wages, non-affordability of infant formula, lack of awareness of the baby's needs, financial dependence on family, four time points (6weeks, 6 months, 12 months and 18 months) for HIV tests, and need for nevirapine (NVP) prophylaxis. Social-level challenges included lack of motivation by patients and/or health care staff, social stigma, and rude behavior of health care staff and their unwillingness to provide maternity services to women in the PMTCT programme. Structural-level challenges included cultural norms around infant feeding, shortages of HIV testing kits, shortages of antiretroviral drugs and infant NVP prophylaxis, and lack of training/knowledge related to PMTCT infant feeding guidelines by hospital staff. The consensus among ORWs was that there was a critical need for tools and training to improve their capacity to effectively engage with patients, and deliver appropriate care, and for motivation through periodic feedback.
Given the significant challenges in PMTCT programme implementation reported by ORW, novel strategies to address these challenges are urgently needed to improve patient engagement, and access to and retention in care.
Suryavanshi N, Mave V, Kadam A, Kanade S, Sivalenka S, Kumar VS, Harvey P, Gupta R, Hegde A, Gupte N, Gupta A, Bollinger RC, Shankar A. Challenges and opportunities for outreach workers in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program in India. PLoS One. 2018 Sep 4;13(9):e0203425. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203425. eCollection 2018. PMID: 30180186, PMCID: PMC6122806.