Open Access Research article

Increasing the uptake of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services in a resource-limited setting

Kwasi Torpey1*, Mushota Kabaso1, Prisca Kasonde1, Rebecca Dirks2, Maxmillian Bweupe3, Catherine Thompson1 and Ya Diul Mukadi2

Author Affiliations

1 Family Health International/Zambia Prevention, Care, and Treatment Partnership, Lusaka, Zambia

2 Family Health International/Arlington, VA, USA

3 Ministry of Health/Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:29  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-29

Published: 28 January 2010

Abstract

Background

As in other resource limited settings, the Ministry of Health in Zambia is challenged to make affordable and acceptable PMTCT interventions accessible and available. With a 14.3% HIV prevalence, the MOH estimates over one million people are HIV positive in Zambia. Approximately 500,000 children are born annually in Zambia and 40,000 acquire the infection vertically each year if no intervention is offered. This study sought to review uptake of prevention of mother-to-child (PMTCT) services in a resource-limited setting following the introduction of context-specific interventions.

Methods

Interventions to improve PMTCT uptake were introduced into 38 sites providing PMTCT services in Zambia in July 2005. Baseline and follow up service data were collected on a monthly basis through September 2008. Data was checked for internal and external consistency using logic built into databases used for data management. Data audits were conducted to determine accuracy and reliability. Trends were analyzed pre- and post- intervention.

Results

Uptake among pregnant women increased across the 13 quarters (39 months) of observation, particularly in the case of acceptance of counseling and HIV testing from 45% to 90% (p value = 0.00) in the first year and 99% by year 3 (p value = 0.00). Receipt of complete course of antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis increased from 29% to 66% (p = 0.00) in the first year and 97% by year 3 (p value = 0.00). There was also significant improvement in the percentage of HIV positive pregnant women referred for clinical care.

Conclusions

Uptake of PMTCT services in resource-limited settings can be improved by utilizing innovative alternatives to mitigate the effects of human resource shortage such as by providing technical assistance and mentorship beyond regular training courses, integrating PMTCT services into existing maternal and child health structures, addressing information gaps, mobilizing traditional and opinion leaders and building strong relationships with the government. These health system based approaches provide a sustainable improvement in the capacity and uptake of services.