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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
JU conceptualised the study protocol and manuscript, the implementation of the study as well data analysis and drafted the manuscript. DJ and HH participated in the conceptualisation of the study protocol and reviewed the various drafts of the manuscripts. CZ participated in the review and revision of various drafts of the text manuscript. All authors have seen and approved the final version.
The implementation of collaborative TB/HIV activities may help to mitigate the impact of the dual epidemic on patients and communities. Such implementation requires integrated interventions across facilities and levels of government, and with communities. Engaging Community Care Workers (CCWs) in the delivery of integrated TB/HIV services may enhance universal coverage and treatment outcomes, and address human resource needs in sub-Saharan Africa.
Using pre-intervention research in Sisonke district, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa as a case study, we report on three study objectives: (1) to determine the extent of the engagement of NGOs and CCWs in the implementation of collaborative TB/HIV including PMTCT; (2) to identify constraints related to provision of TB/HIV/PMTCT integrated care at community level; and (3) to explore ways of enhancing the engagement of CCWs to provide integrated TB/HIV/PMTCT services. Our mixed method study included facility and NGO audits, a household survey (n = 3867), 33 key informant interviews with provincial, district, facility, and NGO managers, and six CCW and patient focus group discussions.
Most contracted NGOs were providing TB or HIV support and care with little support for PMTCT. Only 11% of facilities’ TB and HIV patients needing care and support at the community level were receiving support from CCWs. Only 2% of pregnant women reported being counseled by CCWs on infant feeding options and HIV testing. Most facilities (83%) did not have any structural linkage with NGOs. Major constraints identified were system-related: structural, organizational and managerial constraints; inadequate CCW training and supervision; limited scope of CCW practice; inadequate funding; and inconsistency in supplies and equipment. Individual and community factors, such as lack of disclosure, stigma related to HIV, and cultural beliefs were also identified as constraints.
NGO/CCW engagement in the implementation of collaborative TB/HIV/PMTCT activities is sub-optimal, despite its potential benefits. Effective interventions that address contextual and health systems challenges are required. These should combine systematic skills-building, an enhanced scope of practice and consistent CCW supervision with a reliable referral and monitoring and evaluation system.