Addressing challenges in scaling up TB and HIV treatment integration in rural primary healthcare clinics in South Africa (SUTHI): a cluster randomized controlled trial protocol

Implement Sci. 2017 Nov 13;12(1):129. doi: 10.1186/s13012-017-0661-1.


Background: A large and compelling clinical evidence base has shown that integrated TB and HIV services leads to reduction in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)- and tuberculosis (TB)-associated mortality and morbidity. Despite official policies and guidelines recommending TB and HIV care integration, its poor implementation has resulted in TB and HIV remaining the commonest causes of death in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa. This study aims to reduce mortality due to TB-HIV co-infection through a quality improvement strategy for scaling up of TB and HIV treatment integration in rural primary healthcare clinics in South Africa.

Methods: The study is designed as an open-label cluster randomized controlled trial. Sixteen clinic supervisors who oversee 40 primary health care (PHC) clinics in two rural districts of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa will be randomized to either the control group (provision of standard government guidance for TB-HIV integration) or the intervention group (provision of standard government guidance with active enhancement of TB-HIV care integration through a quality improvement approach). The primary outcome is all-cause mortality among TB-HIV patients. Secondary outcomes include time to antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation among TB-HIV co-infected patients, as well as TB and HIV treatment outcomes at 12 months. In addition, factors that may affect the intervention, such as conditions in the clinic and staff availability, will be closely monitored and documented.

Discussion: This study has the potential to address the gap between the establishment of TB-HIV care integration policies and guidelines and their implementation in the provision of integrated care in PHC clinics. If successful, an evidence-based intervention comprising change ideas, tools, and approaches for quality improvement could inform the future rapid scale up, implementation, and sustainability of improved TB-HIV integration across sub-Sahara Africa and other resource-constrained settings.

Trial registration:, NCT02654613 . Registered 01 June 2015.

Keywords: Implementation science; Quality improvement; TB-HIV co-infection; TB-HIV integration.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / mortality
  • HIV Infections / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration
  • Research Design
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration*
  • South Africa
  • Systems Integration
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis / mortality
  • Tuberculosis / therapy*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Antitubercular Agents

Associated data