Economic strengthening programmes for people living with HIV may increase their quality of life

The impact of social services interventions in developing countries: a review of the evidence of impact on clinical outcomes in people living with HIV.

Bateganya MH, Dong M, Oguntomilade J, Suraratdecha C. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Apr 15;68 Suppl 3:S357-67. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000498.

Background: Social service interventions have been implemented in many countries to help people living with HIV (PLHIV) and household members cope with economic burden as a result of reduced earning or increased spending on health care. However, the evidence for specific interventions-economic strengthening and legal services-on key health outcomes has not been appraised.

Methods: We searched electronic databases from January 1995 to May 2014 and reviewed relevant literature from resource-limited settings on the impact of social service interventions on mortality, morbidity, retention in HIV care, quality of life, and ongoing HIV transmission and their cost-effectiveness.

Results: Of 1685 citations, 8 articles reported the health impact of economic strengthening interventions among PLHIV in resource-limited settings. None reported on legal services. Six of the 8 studies were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa: 1 reported on all 5 outcomes and 2 reported on 4 and 2 outcomes, respectively. The remaining 5 reported on 1 outcome each. Seven studies reported on quality of life. Although all studies reported some association between economic strengthening interventions and HIV care outcomes, the quality of evidence was rated fair or poor because studies were of low research rigor (observational or qualitative), had small sample size, or had other limitations. The expected impact of economic strengthening interventions was rated as high for quality of life but uncertain for all the other outcomes.

Conclusions: Implementation of economic strengthening interventions is expected to have a high impact on the quality of life for PLHIV but uncertain impact on mortality, morbidity, retention in care, and HIV transmission. More rigorous research is needed to explore the impact of more targeted intervention components on health outcomes.

Abstract access  [1]

Editor’s notes: To mitigate the impact of HIV on people living with HIV and their households, economic strengthening programmes and legal services have often been implemented. However, few have been rigorously evaluated in terms of their impact on HIV outcomes. This review of the literature reveals a limited and weak evidence base on the impact of such social services programmes for people living with HIV on mortality, morbidity, retention in HIV care, quality of life, and ongoing HIV transmission. It only identifies eight studies, all of them on economic strengthening activities, and most of them qualitative or observational in design. The authors conclude that the evidence suggests a high impact of such programmes on the quality of life for people living with HIV, which was consistently reported in the studies identified. Access to other confounding services, such as ART and broader community-based support, requires these findings to be interpreted with caution.     

The study clearly highlights the need for more rigorous impact and economic evaluations in this area. Indeed, the review did not identify any studies considering costs or cost-effectiveness. The authors also recommend more research into the feasibility and sustainability of these programmes, as well as greater focus of the implemented programmes on population groups in the greatest need.  

Africa [7], Asia [8], Latin America [9]
Côte d'Ivoire [10], Ethiopia [11], India [12], Kenya [13], Malawi [14], Peru [15], Thailand [16], Uganda [17]
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