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S Afr Med J. 2016 Jul 6;106(8):804-8. doi: 10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i8.10496.

South African healthcare provider perspectives on transitioning adolescents into adult HIV care.

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Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa; School of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA.



The first generation of South African (SA) children perinatally infected with HIV is entering adulthood, and there is now a pressing need for systematised transfer of these patients from paediatric to adult care.


Previous research has investigated the HIV healthcare transition in North America and Europe, yet none has been conducted in SA. Our study is the first to describe the perspectives of healthcare providers overseeing the transition in resource-limited settings.


We approached healthcare providers working in government paediatric HIV clinics and hospitals in the Western Cape Province, SA. Seven physicians and counsellors in adolescent/paediatric care, representing five clinics, were interviewed, and 43 completed a written survey. Interviews addressed the current state of the transition, barriers and facilitators, and model components. Interviews were assessed for major themes using framework analysis, while logistic regression was applied to survey responses to identify associations with measured covariates.


Analysis of interview transcripts revealed several overarching perspectives that were corroborated by survey responses. One barrier identified was the healthcare providers' difficulty in letting go of their relationships with the adolescent patients. Since healthcare providers regarded their patients as particularly vulnerable, they felt a strong and protective attachment towards them. A second barrier identified was a lack of structure and effective communication between adult and paediatric providers; accordingly, healthcare providers feared that they were transferring their adolescents unprepared, to a judgemental, depersonalised and overburdened environment. All interviewees and a majority of survey respondents (>80%) agreed that the formation of adolescent support groups in adult care clinics as well as a later transition age would improve the transition process.


This study highlights the need for a systematic healthcare transition for HIV-positive adolescents cared for in the Western Cape, while acknowledging the limitations of the current healthcare infrastructure. Several feasible recommendations have been identified, including forming support groups and greater involvement of adolescent healthcare providers to facilitate the transition.


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