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.