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PLoS One. 2010; 5(7): e11522.
Published online Jul 13, 2010. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0011522
PMCID: PMC2903482

Strengthening Health Systems at Facility-Level: Feasibility of Integrating Antiretroviral Therapy into Primary Health Care Services in Lusaka, Zambia

Landon Myer, Editor

Abstract

Introduction

HIV care and treatment services are primarily delivered in vertical antiretroviral (ART) clinics in sub-Saharan Africa but there have been concerns over the impact on existing primary health care services. This paper presents results from a feasibility study of a fully integrated model of HIV and non-HIV outpatient services in two urban Lusaka clinics.

Methods

Integration involved three key modifications: i) amalgamation of space and patient flow; ii) standardization of medical records and iii) introduction of routine provider initiated testing and counseling (PITC). Assessment of feasibility included monitoring rates of HIV case-finding and referral to care, measuring median waiting and consultation times and assessing adherence to clinical care protocols for HIV and non-HIV outpatients. Qualitative data on patient/provider perceptions was also collected.

Findings

Provider and patient interviews at both sites indicated broad acceptability of the model and highlighted a perceived reduction in stigma associated with integrated HIV services. Over six months in Clinic 1, PITC was provided to 2760 patients; 1485 (53%) accepted testing, 192 (13%) were HIV positive and 80 (42%) enrolled. Median OPD patient-provider contact time increased 55% (6.9 vs. 10.7 minutes; p<0.001) and decreased 1% for ART patients (27.9 vs. 27.7 minutes; p = 0.94). Median waiting times increased by 36 (p<0.001) and 23 minutes (p<0.001) for ART and OPD patients respectively. In Clinic 2, PITC was offered to 1510 patients, with 882 (58%) accepting testing, 208 (24%) HIV positive and 121 (58%) enrolled. Median OPD patient-provider contact time increased 110% (6.1 vs. 12.8 minutes; p<0.001) and decreased for ART patients by 23% (23 vs. 17.7 minutes; p<0.001). Median waiting times increased by 47 (p<0.001) and 34 minutes (p<0.001) for ART and OPD patients, respectively.

Conclusions

Integrating vertical ART and OPD services is feasible in the low-resource and high HIV-prevalence setting of Lusaka, Zambia. Integration enabled shared use of space and staffing that resulted in increased HIV case finding, a reduction in stigma associated with vertical ART services but resulted in an overall increase in patient waiting times. Further research is urgently required to assess long-term clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness in order to evaluate scalability and generalizability.


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