The recent scale-up of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services has rapidly accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) uptake among pregnant and postpartum women in sub-Saharan Africa. The Mother and Infant Retention for Health (MIR4Health) study evaluates the impact of a combination intervention administered by trained lay health workers to decrease attrition among HIV-positive women initiating PMTCT services and their infants through 6 months postpartum.
This was a qualitative study nested within the MIR4Health trial. MIR4Health was conducted at 10 health facilities in Nyanza, Kenya from September 2013 to September 2015. The trial intervention addressed behavioral, social, and structural barriers to PMTCT retention and included: appointment reminders via text and phone calls, follow-up and tracking for missed clinic visits, PMTCT health education at home visits and during clinic visits, and retention and adherence support and counseling. All interventions were administered by lay health workers. We describe results of a nested small qualitative inquiry which conducted two focus groups to assess the experiences and perceptions of lay health workers administering the interventions. Discussions were recorded and simultaneously transcribed and translated into English. Data were analyzed using framework analysis approach.
Study findings show lay health workers played a critical role supporting mothers in PMTCT services across a range of behavioral, social, and structural domains, including improved communication and contact, health education, peer support, and patient advocacy and assistance. Findings also identified barriers to the uptake and implementation of the interventions, such as concerns about privacy and stigma, and the limitations of the healthcare system including healthcare worker attitudes. Overall, study findings indicate that lay health workers found the interventions to be feasible, acceptable, and well received by clients.
Lay health workers played a fundamental role in supporting mothers engaged in PMTCT services and provided valuable feedback on the implementation of PMTCT interventions. Future interventions must include strategies to ensure client privacy, decrease stigma within communities, and address the practical limitations of health systems. This study adds important insight to the growing body of research on lay health worker experiences in HIV and PMTCT care.