Equity and HIV/AIDS

How home HIV testing and counselling with follow-up support achieves high testing coverage and linkage to treatment and prevention: a qualitative analysis from Uganda
Ware N; Wyatt M; Asiimwe S; Turyamureeba B; Tumwesigye E; van Rooyen H; Barnabas R; Celum C: Journal of the International AIDS Society 19(20929), 2016

The successes of HIV treatment scale-up and the availability of new prevention tools have raised hopes that the epidemic can finally be controlled and ended. Reduction in HIV incidence and control of the epidemic requires high testing rates at population levels, followed by linkage to treatment or prevention. As effective linkage strategies are identified, it becomes important to understand how these strategies work. The authors use qualitative data from The Linkages Study, a recent community intervention trial of community-based testing with linkage interventions in sub-Saharan Africa, to show how lay counselor home HIV testing and counselling (home HTC) with follow-up support leads to linkage to clinic-based HIV treatment and medical male circumcision services. They conducted 99 semi-structured individual interviews with study participants and three focus groups with 16 lay counselors in Kabwohe, Sheema District, Uganda. The participant sample included both HIV+ men and women (N=47) and HIV-uncircumcised men (N=52). Interview and focus group audio-recordings were translated and transcribed. The transcripts were analysed to identify emergent themes. Trial participants expressed interest in linking to clinic-based services at testing, but faced obstacles that eroded their initial enthusiasm. Follow-up support by lay counselors intervened to restore interest and inspire action. Together, home HTC and follow-up support improved morale, created a desire to reciprocate, and provided reassurance that services were trustworthy. In different ways, these functions built links to the health service system. They worked to strengthen individuals’ general sense of capability, while making the idea of accessing services more manageable and familiar, thus reducing linkage barriers. Home HTC with follow-up support leads to linkage by building “social bridges,”, viz: interpersonal connections established and developed through repeated face-to-face contact between counselors and prospective users of HIV treatment and male circumcision services. Social bridges are found to link communities to the service system, inspiring individuals to overcome obstacles and access care.

Call to Sign: The Second Durban Declaration: Access Equity Rights - Now!
International AIDS Society: Geneva, July 2016

There has been remarkable progress in the response to AIDS since the global HIV community last convened in Durban in 2000. Curbing the spread of HIV was the first step . Accelerating investment and action on a robust human rights and social justice agenda is the next. Despite significant scientific advancements, the authors argue that we continue to encounter structural barriers that impede real world progress. Realising the promise of scientific achievement requires a greater commitment to removing barriers between discovery and implementation. The 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) must bring these pieces together – the key scientific advances needed to end the epidemic and the key structural barriers impeding progress – and secure greater political commitment including financial resources to get the job done. They argue that it is key to focus on five key scientific advances; ensuring access to antiretroviral therapy for all people living with HIV, scaling up modern combination HIV prevention packages, treating and managing co-infections and co-morbidities, amplifying research efforts for a vaccine and a cure, optimising implementation research. They argue that there is a need to address five key structural barriers; focusing on key populations within and across various HIV epidemic scenarios, addressing gender inequality and empowering young women and girls, challenging laws, policies and practices that stigmatise and discriminate against people living with HIV and key populations, increasing investment in civil society and community lead responses, and enhancing the capacity of front-line healthcare workers.

Charting a path to end the AIDS epidemic
Sidibé M: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 94(6) 408, 2016, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2471/BLT.16.176875

From 8 to 10 June 2016, heads and representatives of states and governments, along with other key stakeholders, assembled at the United Nations (UN) in New York, for the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. There are three reasons why this meeting is an important milestone for the global response against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). First, the meeting provides an opportunity to reflect on the extent of progress and unprecedented achievements that have been made in responding to the AIDS epidemic, as described in the UN Secretary-General’s report. Second, the meeting served as an occasion to galvanise support from the global community to scale up the AIDS response. The 90–90–90 treatment target calls for 90% of people living with HIV to know their status, 90% of people who know their HIV status to have access to treatment and 90% of people on treatment to achieve suppressed viral loads by 2020. Third, the meeting was an opportunity to reflect on specific challenges that need to be addressed going forward. Among them is a treatment gap and inadequate global investments in prevention. The UNAIDS 2016–2021 Strategy integrated efforts towards ending the AIDS epidemic fully into Transforming our world: the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The strategy sets out the links between the HIV response and several sustainable development goals (SDGs), from SDG 1 on ending poverty to SDG 16 on promoting inclusive societies.

Pain in amaXhosa Women Living With HIV/AIDS: Translation and Validation of the Brief Pain Inventory–Xhosa
Parker R; Jelsma J; Stein D: Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 51(1)126-132, 2016

Pain has been reported as the second most commonly reported symptom in people living with HIV. In South Africa, there are more than five million people living with HIV. Approximately, two million belong to the Xhosa cultural group. A culturally appropriate, valid, and reliable instrument is required to measure pain and its impact in this population. This article documents the process of translation of the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) into the BPI-Xhosa and presents the results of the validity and reliability testing of the instrument. The translated BPI-Xhosa, a demographic questionnaire and the European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions Xhosa version (EQ-5D-Xhosa) health-related quality of life instrument were administered to 229 amaXhosa women living with HIV in a resource-poor urban settlement in South Africa. A 74% prevalence of pain was recorded. The BPI-Xhosa had good concurrent validity when compared with the previously validated EQ-5D-Xhosa. The BPI-Xhosa was found to be a valid instrument to measure pain prevalence, severity, and interference in amaXhosa women living with HIV.

The History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Africa
Kagaayi J; Serwadda D: Current HIV/AIDS Reports, doi 10.1007/s11904-016-0318-8 May 2016

HIV testing of African immigrants in Belgium showed that HIV existed among Africans by 1983. However, the epidemic was recognized much later in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa due to stigma and perceived fear of possible negative consequences to the countries’ economies. This delay had devastating mortality, morbidity, and social consequences. In countries where earlier recognition occurred, political leadership was vital in mounting a response. The response involved establishment of AIDS control programs and research on the HIV epidemiology and candidate preventive interventions. Over time, the number of effective interventions has grown. Triple antiretroviral therapy (ART) has led to a rapid decline in HIV-related morbidity and mortality in addition to prevention of onward HIV transmission. Other effective interventions include safe male circumcision, and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis. However, since none of these is sufficient by itself, the authors argue for a combination package of these interventions in the public health response.

"I don't have options but to persevere." Experiences and practices of care for HIV and diabetes in rural Tanzania: a qualitative study of patients and family caregivers.
Mwangome M; Geubbels E; Klatser P; Dieleman M: Int Jo for Equity in Health 15(1)56, 2016, doi:10.1186/s12939-016-0345-5

The high prevalence of chronic diseases in Tanzania is putting a strain on the already stretched health care services, patients and their families. This study sought to find out how health care for diabetes and HIV is perceived, practiced and experienced by patients and family caregivers, to inform strategies to improve continuity of care. Thirty two in-depth interviews were conducted among 19 patients (10 HIV, 9 diabetes) and 13 family caregivers (6 HIV, 7 diabetes). The innovative care for chronic conditions framework informed the study design. Three major themes emerged; preparedness and practices in care, health care at health facilities and community support in care for HIV and diabetes. In preparedness and practices, HIV patients and caregivers knew more about aspects of HIV than did diabetes patients and caregivers on diabetes aspects. Continued education on care for the conditions was better structured for HIV than diabetes. On care at facilities, HIV and diabetes patients reported that they appreciated familiarity with providers, warm reception, gentle correction of mistakes and privacy during care. HIV services were free of charge at all levels. Costs involved in seeking services resulted in some diabetes patients to not keep appointments. There was limited community support for care of diabetes patients. Community support for HIV care was through community health workers, patient groups, and village leaders. Diabetes and HIV have socio-cultural and economic implications for patients and their families. The HIV programme is successfully using decentralization of health services, task shifting and CHWs to address these implications. For diabetes and NCDs, decentralization and task shifting are also important and, strengthening of community involvement is warranted for continuity of care and patient centeredness in care. While considering differences between HIV and diabetes, the authors show that Tanzania's rich experiences in community involvement in health can be leveraged for care and treatment of diabetes and other NCDs.

Challenges to antiretroviral adherence among MSM and LGBTI living with HIV in Kampala, Uganda
Therkelsen D: HEARD, Durban, December 2015

‘Treatment as prevention’ has become the cornerstone of UNAIDS’s post-2015 global strategy to end AIDS by 2030. As the expansion of treatment provision continues, and access improves, adherence becomes a determining factor in the impact of ART for both treatment and prevention. HEARD are conducting a number of small scoping studies on challenges to ART adherence in men who have sex with men (MSM) and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities living with HIV in East and Southern Africa (ESA), as key populations in the AIDS response. This report presents findings from a scoping study carried out in Kampala, Uganda, in December 2015. The findings suggest that (double) stigma and criminalisation of behaviour of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in MSM and LGBTI communities cut across almost every perceived challenge to ART adherence as a driving or contributory factor. As a result, indications suggest MSM and LGBTI experience challenges that are similar in type to the general population, but that these population groups experience the challenges more often, more acutely, and with less opportunity to overcome the challenges.

‘The mercurial piece of the puzzle’: Understanding stigma and HIV/AIDS in South Africa
Gilbert L: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance (SAHARA-J)13(1) 8-16

Although stigma and its relationship to health and disease is not a new phenomenon, it has not been a major feature in the public discourse until the emergence of HIV. The range of negative responses associated with the epidemic placed stigma on the public agenda and drew attention to its complexity as a phenomenon and concept worthy of further investigation. Despite the consensus that stigma is one of the major contributors to the rapid spread of HIV and the frequent use of the term in the media and among people in the street, the exact meaning of ‘stigma’ remains ambiguous. This paper re-visits some of the scholarly deliberations and further interrogates their relevance in explaining HIV-related stigma evidenced in South Africa. In conclusion a model is presented. Its usefulness – or explanatory potential – is that it attempts to provide a comprehensive framework that offers insights into the individual as well as the social/structural components of HIV-related stigma in a particular context. As such, it is argued by the authors to have the potential to provide more nuanced understandings as well as to alert us to knowledge-gaps in the process.

Agenda for zero discrimination in health care
UNAIDS, Geneva, 2016

People around the world face barriers to accessing quality health care and enjoying the highest attainable standard of health. Why this occurs varies between countries and communities, but some barriers are present everywhere. These include the various forms of discrimination faced by people who are marginalized, stigmatized, criminalized and otherwise mistreated because of their gender, nationality, age, disability, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, language, socio-economic status, or HIV or other health status, or because of selling sex, using drugs and/or living in prison. One in eight people living with HIV report having been denied health care. Examples of HIV-related stigma and discrimination go beyond denial of care or lower quality care, and include forced sterilization, stigmatizing treatment, negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviour from providers, lack of privacy and/or confidentiality and mandatory testing or treatment without informed consent. UNAIDS argue that such discriminatory practices undermine people’s access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services and the quality of health-care delivery, as well as adherence to HIV treatment.

Relationship between power, communication, and violence among couples: results of a cluster-randomised HIV prevention study in a South African township
Minnis A; Doherty I; Kline T; Zule W; Myers B; Carney T; Wechsberg W: International Journal of Women's Health, 7, 517–525, 2015

Inequitable gender-based power in relationships and intimate partner violence contribute to persistently high rates of HIV infection among South African women. The authors examined the effects of two group-based HIV prevention interventions that engaged men and their female partners together in a couples intervention (Couples Health CoOp [CHC]) and a gender-separate intervention (Men’s Health CoOp/Women’s Health CoOp [MHC/WHC]) on women’s reports of power, communication, and conflict in relationships. Of the 290 couples enrolled, 255 women remained in the same partnership over 6 months. Following the intervention, women in the CHC arm compared with those in the WHC arm were more likely to report an increase in relationship control and gender norms supporting female autonomy in relationships. Women in the MHC/WHC arm were more likely to report increases in relationship equity, relative to those in the CHC arm, and had a higher odds of reporting no victimisation during the previous 3 months. Male partner engagement in either the gender-separate or couples-based interventions led to modest improvements in gender power, adoption of more egalitarian gender norms, and reductions in relationship conflict for females. The aspects of relationship power that improved, however, varied between the couples and gender-separate conditions, highlighting the need for further attention to development of both gender-separate and couples interventions.

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