Multiple ART Programs Create a Dilemma for Providers to Monitor ARV Adherence in Uganda
Background:Increased availability and accessibility of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has improved the length and quality of life amongst people living with HIV/AIDS. This has changed the landscape for care from episodic to long-term care that requires more monitoring of adherence. This has led to increased demand on human resources, a major problem for most ART programs. This paper presents experiences and perspectives of providers in ART facilities, exploring the organizational factors affecting their capacity to monitor adherence to ARVs.
Methods: From an earlier survey to test adherence indicators and rank facilities as good, medium or poor adherence performances, six facilities were randomly selected, two from each rank. Observations on facility set-up, provider-patient interactions and key informant interviews were carried out. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats identified by health workers as facilitators or barriers to their capacity to monitor adherence to ARVs were explored during group discussions.
Results: Findings show that the performance levels of the facilities were characterized by four different organizational ART programs operating in Uganda, with apparent lack of integration and coordination at the facilities. Of the six facilities studied, the two high adherence performing facilities were Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) programs, while facilities with dual organizational programs (Governmental/NGO) performed poorly. Working conditions, record keeping and the duality of programs underscored the providers' capacity to monitor adherence. Overall 70% of the observed provider-patient interactions were conducted in environments that ensured privacy of the patient. The mean performance for record keeping was 79% and 50% in the high and low performing facilities respectively. Providers often found it difficult to monitor adherence due to the conflicting demands from the different organizational ART programs.
Conclusion: Organizational duality at facilities is a major factor in poor adherence monitoring. The different ART programs in Uganda need to be coordinated and integrated into a single well resourced program to improve ART services and adherence monitoring. The focus on long-term care of patients on ART requires that the limitations to providers' capacity for monitoring adherence become central during the planning and implementation of ART programs.