BMC Pediatr. 2022 Dec 26;22(1):736. doi: 10.1186/s12887-022-03784-3.
BACKGROUND: Successful linkage to HIV services and initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) for children living with HIV (CLHIV) is critical to improve pediatric ART coverage. We aimed to assess confirmatory testing, linkage, and rapid ART initiation among newly diagnosed CLHIV in Ethiopia from the perspectives of caregivers and healthcare workers (HCWs).
METHODS: We conducted standardized surveys with HCWs and caregivers of children 2-14 years who were diagnosed with HIV but not yet on ART who had been identified during a cross-sectional study in Ethiopia from May 2017-March 2018. Eight health facilities based on their HIV caseload and testing volume and 21 extension sites were included. Forty-one children, 34 care givers and 40 healthcare workers were included in this study. Three months after study enrollment, caregivers were surveyed about timing and experiences with HIV service enrollment, confirmatory testing, and ART initiation. Data collected from HCWs included perceptions of confirmatory testing in CLHIV before ART initiation. SPSS was used to conduct descriptive statistics.
RESULTS: The majority of the 41 CLHIV were enrolled to HIV services (n = 34, 83%) and initiated ART by three months (n = 32, 94%). Median time from diagnosis to ART initiation was 12 days (interquartile range 5-18). Five children died before the follow-up interview. Confirmatory HIV testing was conducted in 34 children and found no discordant results; the majority (n = 23, 68%) received it within one week of HIV diagnosis. Almost all HCWs (n = 39/40, 98%) and caregivers (n = 31/34, 91%) felt better/the same about test results after conducting confirmatory testing.
CONCLUSION: Opportunities remain to strengthen linkage for newly diagnosed CLHIV in Ethiopia through intensifying early follow-up to ensure prompt confirmatory testing and rapid ART initiation. Additional services could help caregivers with decision-making around treatment initiation for their children.