"It's Not Like Taking Chocolates": Factors Influencing the Feasibility and Sustainability of Universal Test and Treat in Correctional Health Systems in Zambia and South Africa

Topp SM, Chetty-Makkan CM, Smith HJ, Chimoyi L, Hoffmann CJ, Fielding K, Reid SE, Olivier AJ, Hausler H, Herce ME, Charalambous S

BACKGROUND: Sub-Saharan African correctional facilities concentrate large numbers of people who are living with HIV or at risk for HIV infection. Universal test and treat (UTT) is widely recognized as a promising approach to improve the health of individuals and a population health strategy to reduce new HIV infections. In this study, we explored the feasibility and sustainability of implementing UTT in correctional facilities in Zambia and South Africa.

METHODS: Nested within a UTT implementation research study, our qualitative evaluation of feasibility and sustainability used a case-comparison design based on data from 1 Zambian and 3 South African correctional facilities. Primary data from in-depth interviews with incarcerated individuals, correctional managers, health care providers, and policy makers were supplemented by public policy documents, study documentation, and implementation memos in both countries. Thematic analysis was informed by an empirically established conceptual framework for health system analysis.

RESULTS: Despite different institutional profiles, we were able to successfully introduce UTT in the South Africa and Zambian correctional facilities participating in the study. A supportive policy backdrop was important to UTT implementation and establishment in both countries. However, sustainability of UTT, defined as relevant government departments' capacity to independently plan, resource, and administer quality UTT, differed. South Africa's correctional facilities had existing systems to deliver and monitor chronic HIV care and treatment, forming a "scaffolding" for sustained UTT despite some human resources shortages and poorly integrated health information systems. Notwithstanding recent improvements, Zambia's correctional health system demonstrated insufficient material and technical capacity to independently deliver quality UTT. In the correctional facilities of both countries, inmate population dynamics and their impact on HIV-related stigma were important factors in UTT service uptake.

CONCLUSION: Findings demonstrate the critical role of policy directives, health service delivery systems, adequate resourcing, and population dynamics on the feasibility and likely sustainability of UTT in corrections in Zambia and South Africa.

July 16, 2019
Year of publication
Resource types
Journal and research articles
correctional facilities, prisons, universal test-and-treat (UTT), health systems

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