Journal Article

Challenges to and opportunities for the adoption and routine use of early warning indicators to monitor pediatric HIV drug resistance in Kenya

Background
Pediatric non-adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART), loss to follow-up, and HIV drug resistance (HIVDR) are challenges to achieving UNAIDS’ targets of 90% of those diagnosed HIV-positive receiving treatment, and 90% of those receiving treatment achieving viral suppression. In Kenya, the pediatric population represents 8% of total HIV infections and pediatric virological failure is estimated at 33%. The monitoring of early warning indicators (EWIs) for HIVDR can help to identify and correct gaps in ART program functioning to improve HIV care and treatment outcomes. However, EWIs have not been integrated into health systems. We assessed challenges to the use of EWIs and solutions to challenges identified by frontline health administrators.

Methods
We conducted key informant interviews with health administrators who were fully knowledgeable of the ART program at 23 pediatric ART sites in 18 counties across Kenya from May to June 2015. Thematic content analysis identified themes for three EWIs: on-time pill pick-up, retention in care, and virological suppression.

Results
Nine themes—six at the facility level and three at the patient level—emerged as major challenges to EWI monitoring. At the facility level, themes centered on system issues (e.g., slow return of viral load results), staff shortages and inadequate adherence counseling skills, lack of effective patient tracking and linkage systems, and lack of support for health personnel. At the patient level, themes focused on stigma, non-disclosure of HIV status to children who are age eligible, and little engagement of guardians in the children’s care.

Practical solutions identified included the use of lay health workers (e.g., peer educators, community health workers) to implement a variety of care and treatment tasks, whole facility approaches to adherence counseling, adolescent peer support groups, and working with children directly as soon as they are age eligible.

Discussion
The monitoring of EWIs has not been routine in health facilities in Kenya due to several challenges. However, facilities have implemented novel strategies to address some of these barriers. Future work is needed to assess whether scale-up of some of these approaches can aid in the effective use of EWIs and improving HIV care outcomes among the pediatric population.