Background: As the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) matured into its 10th year of ensuring community involvement in mass annual treatment of onchocerciasis with ivermectin, there was recognition of a need to study not only annual coverage of ivermectin in villages but also the compliance of individual villagers with these annual treatments. This was based on the concern that while population coverage goals may be achieved each year, there might be segments of the population who systematically are not complying with the annual regimen, thus creating a reservoir of infection and threatening program gains.
Methods: A multi-site study in five APOC sponsored projects in Nigeria and Cameroon was undertaken to identify the socio-demographic correlates of compliance with ivermectin treatment. A total of 8,480 villagers above 9 years of age selected through a systematic random sampling from 101 communities were surveyed to ascertain their levels of compliance, by adapting APOC's standard household ivermectin survey form. Community leaders, community directed distributors (CDDs) of ivermectin and health workers were interviewed with in-depth interview guides, while focus group discussions were held with community members to help explain how socio-demographic factors might affect compliance.
Results: Eight-year compliance ranged from 0 to 8 times with 42.9% taking ivermectin between 6-8 times annually (high compliance). In bivariate analysis high compliance was positively associated with being male, over 24 years of age, having been married, not being Christian, having little or no formal education and being in the ethnic majority. These variables were also confirmed through regression analysis based on total times ivermectin was taken over the period. While these factors explained only 8% of the overall variation in compliance, ethnic status and education appeared to be the strongest factors. Those with higher education may be more mobile and harder to reach while neglect of ethnic minorities has also been documented in other programs.
Conclusion: These findings can help managers of CDTI programmes to ensure ivermectin reaches all segments of the population equally.