Effectiveness of community adolescent treatment supporters (CATS) interventions in improving linkage and retention in care, adherence to ART and psychosocial well-being: a randomised trial among adolescents living with HIV in rural Zimbabwe
BACKGROUND: Engagement with community adolescent treatment supporters (CATS) improves adherence, psychosocial well-being, linkage and retention in care among adolescents living with HIV. However, there is an urgent need for empirical evidence of the effectiveness of this approach, in order to inform further programmatic development, national and international policy, guidelines and service delivery for adolescents living with HIV. This study set out to determine the effectiveness of CATS services on improving linkage to services and retention in care, adherence and psychosocial well-being among adolescents living with HIV in Zimbabwe.
METHODS: A randomised trial was conducted in Gokwe South district, Zimbabwe over a period of 12 months. Ninety-four HIV-positive adolescents, 10-15 years old, on antiretroviral therapy were recruited to the study. 47 participants received standard of care from the Ministry of Health and Child Care and 47 received the same standard of care plus CATS services. Data collection involved a questionnaire which was administered at baseline then repeated at three, six, nine and twelve months for all participants. Survey questions on confidence, self-esteem and self-worth had a three-point Likert scale. Stigma, quality of life and the linkages to services and retention questions had a five-point Likert scale.
RESULTS: Survey questionnaires were completed with response rates of 40 out of 47 (85%) for the intervention arm, and 28 out of 47 (60%) for the control arm, at end-line. The intervention group were 3.9 times more likely to adhere to treatment compared to the control group. Linkage to services and retention in care within the intervention group increased compared with a decrease in the control arm. The intervention group reported a statistically significant increase in confidence, self-esteem, self-worth (p < 0.001) and quality of life compared (p = 0.028) with a decrease in the control arm.
CONCLUSIONS: This study found that adolescents receiving the CATS service had improved linkage to services and retention in care, improved adherence and improved psychosocial well-being compared to adolescents who did not have access to such services.