Referral Systems to Integrate Health and Economic Strengthening Services for People with HIV: A Qualitative Assessment in Malawi
Supporting the diverse needs of people living with HIV (PLHIV) can help reduce the individual and structural barriers they face in adhering to antiretroviral treatment (ART). The Livelihoods and Food Security Technical Assistance II (LIFT) project sought to improve adherence in Malawi by establishing 2 referral systems linking community-based economic strengthening and livelihoods services to clinical health facilities: (1) a simple paper-based system connecting clinical HIV and nutrition support to village savings and loans services, and (2) a complex mHealth-based system with more than 20 types of health, economic strengthening, livelihoods, and food security services. Clients reported the referrals improved their health and nutrition and ability to save money in both models but more with the simple model. Providers had difficulty using the mobile app under the mHealth system, even after repeated trainings, considerable ongoing technical assistance, and multiple rounds of revisions to the interface.