Enhancing an HIV index case testing passive referral model through a behavioural skills-building training for healthcare providers: A pre-/post-assessment in Mangochi District, Malawi
INTRODUCTION: Although knowledge of HIV positivity is a necessary step towards engagement in HIV care, more than one quarter of HIV-positive Malawians remain unaware of their HIV status. Testing the sexual partners, guardians and children of HIV-positive persons (index case finding or ICF) is a promising way of identifying HIV-positive persons unaware of their HIV status. ICF can be passive where the HIV-positive individual (index) invites a partner (or contact) for HIV testing or active where a health provider assists the index with partner notification and offers HIV testing to the partner. Strategies to improve passive ICF have not been thoroughly studied. We describe the impact of a behavioural skills-building training to enhance healthcare workers' (HCWs) implementation of Malawi's passive ICF programme.
METHODS: In June 2017, HCWs from 36 health facilities in Mangochi were oriented to Malawi's ICF programme and began implementation. In February and April 2018, a total of 573 HCWs from these facilities received further training from the Tingathe Programme. The training focused on eliciting more untested sexual contacts from indexes and better equipping indexes on issuing "family referral slips" to contacts. Monthly programmatic data were abstracted from clinical registers from October 2017 to July 2018. Monthly programmatic indicators were collected from the Index Case Testing Register and the HIV Counselling and Testing Register and were entered into a data set with one record per facility per month. T-tests were used to compare the means of these indicators.
RESULTS: During the ten-month study period, there were 200 facility-months observed before and 124 facility-months observed after training. The mean number of indexes identified per facility-month remained stable after training (pre = 18.9, post = 21.2, p = 0.74), but the mean number of sexual partners listed per facility-month (pre = 6.3, post = 10.6, p < 0.001) increased. The mean number of contacts who received HIV testing (pre = 11.1, post = 24.8, p < 0.001) and the mean number of HIV-positive contacts identified per facility-month (pre = 1.3, post = 2.3, p < 0.001) also increased.
CONCLUSIONS: A brief behavioural skills-building training impacted a range of meaningful outcomes, including identification of HIV-positive individuals in a passive ICF programme. Such approaches could facilitate the identification of HIV-positive persons unaware of their HIV status, a necessary step for engagement in HIV care.