Malawi

A cross-sectional qualitative study was conducted to explore early experiences surrounding "Option B+" for patients and health care workers in Malawi. As "Option B+" continues to be rolled out, novel interventions to support and retain women in care must be implemented. These include providing space, time, and support to accept a diagnosis before starting ART, engaging partners and families, and addressing the need for peer support and confidentiality.

This article presents Malawi’s experience with designing and implementing Option B+ and provides complementary narratives from Cameroon and Tanzania. Operationalizing Option B+ required several critical considerations, including the complete integration of ART and PMTCT programs, systematic reduction of barriers to facilitate doubling the number of ART sites in less than a year, building consensus with stakeholders, and securing additional resources. During the planning and implementation process, several lessons were learned which are considerations for countries transitioning to “treat-all”: Comprehensive change requires effective government leadership and coordination; national clinical guidelines must accommodate health system limitations; ART services and commodities should be decentralized within facilities; the general public should be well informed about major changes in the national HIV program; and patients should be educated on clinic processes to improve program monitoring.

In Malawi, health-system constraints meant that only a fraction of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and in immediate need of antiretroviral treatment (ART) received treatment. In 2004, the Malawian Ministry of Health launched plans to scale-up ART nationwide, adhering to the principle of equity to ensure fair geographical access to therapy. A public health approach was used with standardized training and treatment and regular supervision and monitoring of the programme. Before the scale-up, an estimated 930 000 people in Malawi were HIV-infected, with 170 000 in immediate need of ART. About 3000 patients were on ART in nine clinics. By December 2015, cumulatively 872 567 patients had been started on ART from 716 clinics, following national treatment protocols and using the standard monitoring system. Strong national leadership allowed the ministry of health to implement a uniform system for scaling-up ART and provided benchmarks for implementation on the ground. New systems of training staff and accrediting health facilities enabled task-sharing and decentralization to peripheral health centres and a standardized approach to starting and monitoring ART. A system of quarterly supervision and monitoring, into which operational research was embedded, ensured stocks of drug supplies at facilities and adherence to national treatment guidelines.

Abstract The scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Malawi was based on a public health approach adapted to its resource-poor setting, with principles and practices borrowed from the successful tuberculosis control framework. From 2004 to 2015, the number of new patients started on ART increased from about 3,000 to over 820,000.

We reviewed literature on HIV and tuberculosis in sub-Saharan African prisons published between 2011 and 2015, and identified data from only 24 of the 49 countries in the region. Where data were available, they were frequently of poor quality and rarely nationally representative. Prevalence of HIV infection ranged from 2·3% to 34·9%, and of tuberculosis from 0·4 to 16·3%; detainees nearly always had a higher prevalence of both diseases than did the non-incarcerated population in the same country.We identified barriers to prevention, treatment, and care services in published work and through five case studies of prison health policies and services in Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria, and Benin. These barriers included severe financial and human-resource limitations and fragmented referral systems that prevent continuity of care when detainees cycle into and out of prison, or move between prisons. These challenges are set against the backdrop of weak health and criminal-justice systems, high rates of pre-trial detention, and overcrowding. A few examples of promising practices exist, including routine voluntary testing for HIV and screening for tuberculosis upon entry to South African and the largest Zambian prisons, reforms to pre-trial detention in South Africa, integration of mental health services into a health package in selected Malawian prisons, and task sharing to include detainees in care provision through peer-educator programmes in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa. However, substantial additional investments are required throughout sub-Saharan Africa to develop country-level policy guidance, build human-resource capacity, and strengthen prison health systems to ensure universal access to HIV and tuberculosis prevention, treatment, and care of a standard that meets international goals and human rights obligations.

Integrated community case management (iCCM) can be an effective strategy for expanding the provision of diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria services to children under 5 years old but there are concerns in some countries about the corresponding cost and impact. This paper presents and compares findings from a multi–country analysis of iCCM program costs. Data were collected on iCCM programs in seven sub–Saharan African countries: Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Zambia. The data were used to compare some elements of program performance as well as costs per capita and costs per service (which are key indicators of resource allocation and efficiency). A comprehensive understanding of iCCM program costs and results can help countries obtain resources and use them efficiently. To be cost–effective and affordable, iCCM programs must be well utilized, while program management and supervision should be organized to minimize costs and ensure quality of care. iCCM programs will not always be low–cost, however, particularly in small, remote villages where supervision and supply challenges are greater.

In July 2011, Malawi introduced an ambitious public health program known as “Option B+,” which provides all HIV- infected pregnant and breastfeeding women with lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy, regardless of clinical stage or CD4 count. Option B+ is expected to have benefits for HIV-infected women, their HIV-exposed infants, and their HIV-uninfected male sex partners. However, these benefits hinge on early uptake of prevention of mother-to-child transmission, good adherence, and long-term retention in care. The Prevention of mother-to-child transmission Uptake and REtention (PURE) study is a 3-arm cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether clinic- or community-based peer support will improve care-seeking and retention in care by HIV- infected pregnant and breastfeeding women, their HIV-exposed infants, and their male sex partners, and ultimately improve health outcomes in all 3 populations. We describe the PURE Malawi Consortium, the initial work conducted to inform the trial and interventions, the trial design, and the analysis plan. We then discuss concerns and expected contributions to Malawi and the region.

To document the prevalence of multidrug resistance among people newly diagnosed with--and those retreated for--tuberculosis in Malawi, we conducted a nationally representative survey of people with sputum-smear-positive tuberculosis between 2010 and 2011. For all consenting participants, we collected demographic and clinical data, two sputum samples and tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).The samples underwent resistance testing at the Central Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe, Malawi. All Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates found to be multidrug-resistant were retested for resistance to first-line drugs – and tested for resistance to second-line drugs--at a Supranational Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory in South Africa. Overall, M. tuberculosis was isolated from 1777 (83.8%) of the 2120 smear-positive tuberculosis patients. Multidrug resistance was identified in five (0.4%) of 1196 isolates from new cases and 28 (4.8%) of 581 isolates from people undergoing retreatment. Of the 31 isolates from retreatment cases who had previously failed treatment, nine (29.0%) showed multidrug resistance. Although resistance to second-line drugs was found, no cases of extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis were detected. HIV testing of people from whom M. tuberculosis isolates were obtained showed that 577 (48.2%) of people newly diagnosed and 386 (66.4%) of people undergoing retreatment were positive. The prevalence of multidrug resistance among people with smear-positive tuberculosis was low for sub-Saharan Africa--probably reflecting the strength of Malawi’s tuberculosis control programme. The relatively high prevalence of such resistance observed among those with previous treatment failure may highlight a need for a change in the national policy for retreating this subgroup of people with tuberculosis.

Approximately 1 million people are infected with HIV in Malawi, where AIDS is the leading cause of death in adults. By December 31, 2007, more than 141,000 patients were initiated on antiretroviral treatment (ART) by use of a public health approach to scale up HIV services. In Malawi, a public health approach to ART increased treatment access and maintained high 6- and 12-month survival. Resource-limited countries scaling up ART programs may benefit from this approach of simplified clinical decision making, standardized ART regimens, nonphysician care, limited laboratory support, and centralized monitoring and evaluation.

As national antiretroviral treatment (ART) programmes scale up, it is essential that information is complete, timely and accurate for site monitoring and national planning. This study assessed the quality of quarterly aggregate summary data for April to June 2006 compiled and reported by ART facilities as compared to the "gold standard" facility summary data compiled independently by the Ministry of Health supervision team. The national summary using the site reports resulted in a 12% undercount in the national total number of persons on first-line treatment. While many sites are able to generate complete data summaries, the accuracy of facility reports is not yet adequate for national monitoring. The Ministry of Health and its partners should continue to identify and support interventions such as supportive supervision to build sites' capacity to maintain and compile quality data to ensure that accurate information is available for site monitoring and national planning.

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