Introduction: In 2013, an estimated 2.1 million adolescents (age 10-19 years) were living with HIV globally. The extent to which health facilities provide appropriate treatment and care was unknown. To support understanding of service availability in 2014, Paediatric-Adolescent Treatment Africa (PATA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) supporting a network of health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa, undertook a facility-level situational analysis of adolescent HIV treatment and care services in 23 countries.
Methods: Two hundred and eighteen facilities, responsible for an estimated 80,072 HIV-infected adolescents in care, were surveyed. Sixty per cent of the sample were from PATA's network, with the remaining gathered via local NGO partners and snowball sampling. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and coding to describe central tendencies and identify themes.
Results: Respondents represented three subregions: West and Central Africa (n = 59; 27%), East Africa (n = 77, 35%) and southern Africa (n = 82, 38%). Half (50%) of the facilities were in urban areas, 17% peri-urban and 33% rural settings. Insufficient data disaggregation and outcomes monitoring were critical issues. A quarter of facilities did not have a working definition of adolescence. Facilities reported non-adherence as their key challenge in adolescent service provision, but had insufficient protocols for determining and managing poor adherence and loss to follow-up. Adherence counselling focused on implications of non-adherence rather than its drivers. Facilities recommended peer support as an effective adherence and retention intervention, yet not all offered these services. Almost two-thirds reported attending to adolescents with adults and/or children, and half had no transitioning protocols. Of those with transitioning protocols, 21% moved pregnant adolescents into adult services earlier than their peers. There was limited sexual and reproductive health integration, with 63% of facilities offering these services within their HIV programmes and 46% catering to the special needs of HIV-infected pregnant adolescents.
Conclusions: Results indicate that providers are challenged by adolescent adherence and reflect an insufficiently targeted approach for adolescents. Guidance on standard definitions for adherence, retention and counselling approaches is needed. Peer support may create an enabling environment and sensitize personnel. Service delivery gaps should be addressed, with standardized transition and quality counselling. Integrated, comprehensive sexual reproductive health services are needed, with support for pregnant adolescents.
Keywords: HIV; adolescent; care; service; treatment.