Recent Journal Articles by Erik Schouten

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.

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.

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.

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programs can greatly reduce the vertical transmission rate (VTR) of HIV, and Malawi is expanding PMTCT access by offering HIV-infected pregnant women life-long antiretroviral therapy (Option B+). There is currently no empirical data on the effectiveness of Malawian PMTCT programs. This study describes a surveillance approach to obtain population-based estimates of the VTR of infants

In 2004, Malawi began scaling up its national antiretroviral therapy (ART) program. Because of limited treatment options, population-level surveillance of acquired human immunodeficiency virus drug resistance (HIVDR) is critical to ensuring long-term treatment success. The World Health Organization target for clinic-level HIVDR prevention at 12 months after ART initiation is ≥70%.

Background: High quality program data is critical for managing, monitoring, and evaluating national HIV treatment programs. By 2009, the Malawi Ministry of Health had initiated more than 270,000 patients on HIV treatment at 377 sites.

Background: Maternal morbidity and mortality among HIV-infected women is a global concern. This study compared mortality and health outcomes of HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected mothers at 18–20 months postpartum within routine prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in a rural district in Malawi.

The national scale up of antiretroviral therapy in Malawi is based on a public health approach, with principles and practices borrowed from the successful World Health Organization "DOTS" tuberculosis control framework.

Background: Mortality and morbidity among HIV-exposed children are thought to be high in Malawi. We sought to determine mortality and health outcomes of HIV-exposed and unexposed infants within a PMTCT program.

In 2011, the Malawi Ministry of Health (MOH) implemented an innovative approach (called "Option B+"), in which all HIV-infected pregnant and breastfeeding women are eligible for lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of CD4 count. Since that time, several countries have adopted the Option B+ policy. Using data collected through routine program supervision, this report is the first to summarize Malawi's experience implementing Option B+ under the direction of the MOH and supported by the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In Malawi, the number of pregnant and breastfeeding women started on ART per quarter increased by 748%, from 1,257 in the second quarter of 2011 (before Option B+ implementation) to 10,663 in the third quarter of 2012 (1 year after implementation). Of the 2,949 women who started ART under Option B+ in the third quarter of 2011 and did not transfer care, 2,267 (77%) continue to receive ART at 12 months; this retention rate is similar to the rate for all adults in the national program. Option B+ is an important innovation that could accelerate progress in Malawi and other countries toward the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV worldwide.

Background: The Ministry of Health in Malawi is implementing a pragmatic and innovative approach for the management of all HIV-infected pregnant women, termed Option B+, which consists of providing life-long antiretroviral treatment, regardless of their CD4 count or clinical stage. Our objective was to determine if Option B+ represents a cost-effective option.

Low-income countries with high HIV/AIDS burdens in sub-Saharan Africa must deal with severe shortages of qualified human resources for health. This situation has triggered the renewed interest in community health workers, as they may play an important role in scaling-up antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS by taking over a number of tasks from the professional health workers.

The number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) has increased considerably in recent years and is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. A major challenge is to maintain uninterrupted supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and prevent stock-outs.

The national scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Malawi is based on a public health approach, with principles and practices borrowed from the successful DOTS tuberculosis control framework. During the first 6 years, the number of patients registered on treatment increased from 3,000 to >350,000 in both the public and private sectors.

Among adults eligible for antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Thyolo (rural Malawi) and Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya), this study (1) reports on retention and attrition during the preparation phase and after starting ART and (2) identifies risk factors associated with attrition.

In Malawi, high case fatality rates in patients with tuberculosis, who were also co-infected with HIV, and high early death rates in people living with HIV during the initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) adversely impacted on treatment outcomes for the national tuberculosis and ART programmes respectively. This article (1) discusses the operational research that was conducted in the country on cotrimoxazole preventive therapy, (2) outlines the steps that were taken to translate these findings into national policy and practice, (3) shows how the implementation of cotrimoxazole preventive therapy for both TB patients and HIV-infected patients starting ART was associated with reduced death rates, and (4) highlights lessons applicable to other settings and interventions.

In this paper, we discuss the reasons why we urgently need a point-of-care (POC) CD4 test, elaborate the problems we have experienced with the current technology which hampers CD4-count coverage and highlight the ideal characteristics of a universal CD4 POC test.

In the CIPRA-SA trial (July 3, p. 33), Ian Sanne and colleagues compared the outcomes of nurse-monitored patients with those of doctor-monitored patients in an antiretroviral treatment (ART) program in South Africa and concluded that the outcomes of ART services provided by nurses were non-inferior to those provided by doctors.

Drawing on evidence from Malawi and Ethiopia, this article analyses the eff ects of ARTscale-up interventions on human resources policies, service delivery and general health outcomes, and explores how synergies can be maximized.

Background: HIV prevalence among pregnant women in Malawi is 12.6%, and mother-to-child transmission is a major route of transmission. As PMTCT services have expanded in Malawi in recent years, we sought to determine uptake of services, HIV-relevant infant feeding practices and mother-child health outcomes.

The debate on the interaction between disease-specific programmes and health system strengthening in the last few years has intensified as experts seek to tease out common ground and find solutions and synergies to bridge the divide. Unfortunately, the debate continues to be largely academic and devoid of specificity, resulting in the issues being irrelevant to health care workers on the ground.

The WHO 2010 guidelines specify that a CD4 cell count is crucial to decisions about the eligibility of HIV-infected pregnant women for lifelong antiretroviral treatment (ART). In Malawi, however, access to CD4 cell count analysis is minimal.

For the past few months we have been working with our colleagues to prepare Malawi’s antiretroviral treatment (ART) scale-up plan for 2006–0. This poor landlocked country is gripped by a serious HIV epidemic. With a population of almost 12 million, Malawi has an HIV/AIDS burden the same size as that of the USA; nearly 1 million people are infected with HIV.

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