ICAP has received funding from the NIH to conduct a two-year study to evaluate retention and engagement in care among HIV-infected pregnant women receiving lifelong antiretroviral treatment—known as Option B+—at ten health facilities in Swaziland’s Manzini and Lubombo regions.
Through this study, ICAP is partnering with Swaziland’s Ministry of Health (MOH) to locate and engage approximately 600 women who initiated Option B+ in the context of ICAP’s “Safe Generations study”:https://icap.columbia.edu/where-we-work/swaziland for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in order to determine challenges and facilitators to retention.
During the four-phase study, researchers will locate and interview women not retained in care to determine whether they have discontinued HIV services or self-transferred care to another facility, and reasons for either. Researchers will also determine the HIV status of their infants. The results will help identify points throughout pregnancy and after delivery when women are most at-risk for disengagement from care, as well as identify factors that may be addressed to improve and enhance Option B+ program impact for PMTCT.
Over the past decade, Swaziland has made significant gains in HIV testing and treatment and is working to reduce HIV-related morbidity in women as well as to decrease HIV transmission to children. Currently, 37 percent of women accessing antenatal care test positive for HIV, thus information on HIV care and treatment behaviors among pregnant women is critical to enhancing the quality and outcomes of Option B+.
“This study is an important opportunity to learn about the specific issues affecting active follow-up of pregnant women with HIV,” said Dr. William Reidy, principal investigator of the study and strategic information specialist at ICAP. “The findings will provide crucial new evidence to guide interventions to improve Option B+ performance, reduce HIV-related morbidities among women and bring Swaziland closer to the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.”