BMC infectious diseases 2017 01 1017(1) 54 doi 10.1186/s12879-016-2156-0
People living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who have not yet initiated antiretroviral therapy (ART) can benefit from being engaged in care and utilizing preventive interventions. Community-based peer support may be an effective approach to promote these important HIV services.
After conducting a randomized trial of the impact of peer support on pre-ART outcomes, we conducted a qualitative evaluation to better understand trial implementation, processes, and results. Overall, 75 participants, including trial participants (clients), peer supporters, and clinic staff, participated in 41 in-depth interviews and 6 focus group discussions. A situated Information Motivation, and Behavioral skills model of behavior change was used to develop semi-structured interview and focus group guides. Transcripts were coded and thematically synthesized.
We found that participant narratives were generally consistent with the theoretical model, indicating that peer support improved information, motivation, and behavioral skills, leading to increased engagement in pre-ART care. Clients described how peer supporters reinforced health messages and helped them better understand complicated health information. Peer supporters also helped clients navigate the health system, develop support networks, and identify strategies for remembering medication and clinic appointments. Some peer supporters adopted roles beyond visiting patients, serving as a bridge between the client and his or her family, community, and health system. Qualitative results demonstrated plausible processes by which peer support improved client engagement in care, cotrimoxazole use, and safe water vessel use. Challenges identified included insufficient messaging surrounding ART initiation, lack of care continuity after ART initiation, rare breaches in confidentiality, and structural challenges.
The evaluation found largely positive perceptions of the peer intervention across stakeholders and provided valuable information to inform uptake and scalability of the intervention. Study findings also suggest several areas for improvement for future implementation of pre-ART peer support programs.
NCT01366690 . Registered June 2, 2011.