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Curr Opin HIV AIDS. 2019 Jan;14(1):60-65. doi: 10.1097/COH.0000000000000509.

Differentiated service delivery: navigating the path to scale.

Author information

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, Washington, USA.
International AIDS Society, Cape Town, South Africa.
ICAP at Columbia University.
Departments of Medicine & Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York City, New York, USA.



Differentiated service delivery (DSD) has emerged as an approach for HIV programs seeking to better serve the needs of people living with HIV, reduce unnecessary burdens on the health system, and improve client outcomes. We reviewed recent evidence that addresses the challenge of DSD scale-up.


Most current evidence focuses on treatment of clinically stable adult clients in high HIV prevalence settings. Nonetheless, a growing body of research is emerging on how the concept of differentiation is being applied to HIV testing, linkage, and initiation; service delivery to specific demographic groups including key populations - MSM, people who inject drugs, people in prisons, sex workers, and transgender people; service delivery to adolescents and pregnant women; and impact on related medical conditions like advanced HIV. There is also an increasing emphasis on measuring client experience. Key barriers to scale-up include the capacity of monitoring and evaluation systems, access to viral load monitoring and funding for community-led demand generation efforts. Another barrier is the lack of sufficient data to evaluate the various manifestations of the DSD model.


Emerging evidence is providing welcome nuance to the discourse on the concept of DSD for HIV. The challenge will be taking evolving DSD concepts from pilot to scale. Countries must review their particular context, define the expected needs of their clients in different settings, introduce appropriate models - and be willing to adjust programming based on quantitative and qualitative outcomes.

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