Background: The rapid expansion of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) has raised concerns whether health systems can deliver and sustain VMMC according to minimum quality criteria.
Methods and findings: A comparative process evaluation was used to examine data from SYMMACS, the Systematic Monitoring of the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision Scale-Up, among health facilities providing VMMC across two years of program scale-up. Site-level assessments examined the availability of guidelines, supplies and equipment, infection control, and continuity of care services. Direct observation of VMMC surgeries were used to assess care quality. Two sample tests of proportions and t-tests were used to examine differences in the percent of facilities meeting requisite preparedness standards and the mean number of directly-observed surgical tasks performed correctly. Results showed that safe, high quality VMMC can be implemented and sustained at-scale, although substantial variability was observed over time. In some settings, facility preparedness and VMMC service quality improved as the number of VMMC facilities increased. Yet, lapses in high performance and expansion of considerably deficient services were also observed. Surgical tasks had the highest quality scores, with lower performance levels in infection control, pre-operative examinations, and post-operative patient monitoring and counseling. The range of scale-up models used across countries additionally underscored the complexity of delivering high quality VMMC.
Conclusions: Greater efforts are needed to integrate VMMC scale-up and quality improvement processes in sub-Saharan African settings. Monitoring of service quality, not just adverse events reporting, will be essential in realizing the full health impact of VMMC for HIV prevention.