Health System Features That Enhance Access to Comprehensive Primary Care for Women Living with HIV in High-Income Settings: A Systematic Mixed Studies Review

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2018 Apr;32(4):129-148. doi: 10.1089/apc.2017.0305.


Women living with HIV in high-income settings continue to experience modifiable barriers to care. We sought to determine the features of care that facilitate access to comprehensive primary care, inclusive of HIV, comorbidity, and sexual and reproductive healthcare. Using a systematic mixed studies review design, we reviewed qualitative, mixed methods, and quantitative studies identified in Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases (January 2000 to August 2017). Eligibility criteria included women living with HIV; high-income countries; primary care; and healthcare accessibility. We performed a thematic synthesis using NVivo. After screening 3466 records, we retained 44 articles and identified 13 themes. Drawing on a social-ecological framework on engagement in HIV care, we situated the themes across three levels of the healthcare system: care providers, clinical care environments, and social and institutional factors. At the care provider level, features enhancing access to comprehensive primary care included positive patient-provider relationships and availability of peer support, case managers, and/or nurse navigators. Within clinical care environments, facilitators to care were appointment reminder systems, nonidentifying clinic signs, women and family spaces, transportation services, and coordination of care to meet women's HIV, comorbidity, and sexual and reproductive healthcare needs. Finally, social and institutional factors included healthcare insurance, patient and physician education, and dispelling HIV-related stigma. This review highlights several features of care that are particularly relevant to the care-seeking experience of women living with HIV. Improving their health through comprehensive care requires a variety of strategies at the provider, clinic, and greater social and institutional levels.

Keywords: HIV; access to care; primary care; systematic review; thematic synthesis; women.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Government Programs
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Social Stigma*