Background: Development of country plans for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT), including expansion of comprehensive, integrated services, was key to Global Plan achievements.
Approaches: Use of the PMTCT cascade, an evolving series of sequential steps needed to maximize the health of women and HIV-free survival of infants, was critical for development and implementation of PMTCT plans. Regular review of cascade data at national/subnational levels was a tool for evidence-based decision making, identifying areas of greatest need at each level, and targeting program interventions to address specific gaps. Resulting improvements in PMTCT service delivery contributed to success. Populating the cascade highlighted limitations in data availability and quality that focused attention on improving national health information systems.
Limitations: Use of aggregate, cross-sectional data in the PMTCT cascade presents challenges in settings with high mobility and weak systems to track women and children across services. Poor postnatal follow-up and losses at each step of the cascade have limited use of the cascade approach to measure maternal and child health outcomes beyond the early postnatal period.
Lessons learned: A cascade approach was an effective means for countries to measure progress, identify suboptimal performance areas, and be held accountable for progress toward achievement of Global Plan goals. Using the cascade requires investment of time and effort to identify the type, source, and quality of data needed as programs evolve. Ongoing review of cascade data, with interventions to address discontinuities in the continuum of care, can translate across health areas to improve health care quality and outcomes.