Supporting the implementation of guidelines to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV in Malawi: a multi-case study

Chifundo Zimba1, Gwen Sherwood2, Barbara Mark2, Jeenifer Leeman2

  1. University of North Carolina Project, Lilongwe, Malawi and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing, Chapel Hill, NC,
  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nursing

Correspondence: Chifundo Zimba (


High HIV infection and fertility rates contributed to over 12,000 children acquiring HIV from their mothers in 2011 in Malawi. To prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Malawi adopted the Option B+ guidelines, and for three years, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Project provided support to strengthen guideline implementation in 134 health centres. Little is known about how implementation support strategies are delivered in low resource countries or contextual factors that may influence their delivery. The limited descriptions of support strategies and salient contextual factors limits efforts to replicate, target, and further refine strategies. Guided by the Interactive Systems Framework for Dissemination and Implementation, this study describes factors influencing implementation of support strategies and how they impacted health center staff capacity to implement Option B+ in Malawi.
A qualitative multi-case study design was applied. Data were collected through site visits to 4 heath centres (2 low- and 2-high performing centres). We interviewed 18 support providers and recipients between October 2014 and October 2015. Data were analysed using content, thematic, and cross-case analysis.
Four categories of strategies were used to support Option B+ guidelines implementation: training, technical assistance (TA), tools, and resources. All heath-centres implemented Option B+ guidelines for care provided between the antenatal and labor and delivery periods. Gaps in Option B+ implementation occurred during community activities and during post-delivery care, including gaps in testing of children to ascertain their HIV status at 6 weeks, 12 months, and 24 months. Salient contextual factors included staffing shortages, transportation challenges, limited space and infrastructure, limited stocks of HIV testing kits, and large patient populations.
Understanding factors that influence implementation support strategies and delivery of the Option B+ guidelines, such as availability of staff and other materials/drug resources, is critical to designing effective implementation support for low resource settings.
Keywords: Qualitative; Option B+; Guidelines; HIV, Prevention-of-mother-to-child- transmission.

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