Knettel BA, Fernandez KM, Wanda L, Amiri I, Cassiello-Robbins C, Watt MH, Mmbaga BT, Relf MV. The Role of Community Health Workers in HIV Care Engagement: A Qualitative Study of Stakeholder Perspectives in Tanzania. The Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care : JANAC. 2021 Apr 27. PMID: 33908407 [PubMed]
Suboptimal retention in HIV care is a major driver of the global epidemic, including in sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, the national Community-Based HIV Services program integrates volunteer community health workers (CHWs) to support patient care engagement and reduce the burden placed on HIV clinic nurses; however, few studies have assessed the value of CHWs supporting HIV care. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 48 administrators, nurses, CHWs, and patients to explore strengths and limitations of the Community-Based HIV Services program. Stakeholders believed CHWs are uniquely positioned to establish trust and provide patient support. Patients who had frequent contact with CHWs described them as valued sources of education and encouragement, but fewer than half of the patients interviewed had ever met with a CHW. Clinic nurses described feeling disconnected from CHWs, and stakeholders highlighted the need for financial, logistical, and educational support to rejuvenate the program and effectively address care engagement challenges.