Background: Retention in care is critical for improving HIV-infected maternal outcomes and reducing vertical transmission. Health systems' interventions such as continuous quality improvement (CQI) may support health services to address factors that affect the delivery of HIV-related care and thereby influence rates of retention-in-care.
Methodology: We evaluated the effect of a CQI intervention on retention-in-care at 6 months postpartum of pregnant women and mothers living with HIV who had been started on lifelong antiretroviral treatment. Thirty-two health care facilities were randomized to either implement the intervention or not. We considered women fully retained in care when they attended the 6-month postpartum visit and did not miss any previous scheduled visit by more than 30 days.
Results: Five hundred eleven women living with HIV attending antenatal clinics at 26 facilities were included in the analysis. Median age at enrolment was 27 years and gestational age was 20 weeks. Seventy-one percent of women were seen at 6-month postpartum irrespective of missing any scheduled visit. However, 43% of women were fully retained at 6-month postpartum and did not miss any scheduled visit based on our stringent study definition of retention. There was no significant difference in retention at 6 months between the intervention and control arms [44% vs. 41%, relative risk: 1.08; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.78 to 1.49]. Initiation of ARV prophylaxis among infants within 72 hours was not different by study arm (66.0% vs. 74.7%, relative risk = 0.95; 95% CI: 0.84 to 1.07) but rates of early infant testing at 4-6 weeks were higher in intervention sites (48.8% vs. 25.3%, adjusted relative risk: 1.76; 95% CI: 1.27 to 2.42).
Conclusions: CQI as implemented in this study did not differ across study arms in the rates of retention. Several intervention design or implementation issues or other contextual constraints may explain the absence of effect.