Introduction: Although current data projects South Africa potentially meeting the UN target to test 90% of all people living with HIV by 2020, linking them to HIV care remains a big challenge. In an effort to increase linkage to care (LTC) of HIV positive clients an innovative collaborative intervention between two non-governmental organisations was developed and implemented between 2016 and 2017. This paper investigated the outcome of this collaborative intervention.
Methods: We used a mixed methods approach to assess the outcome of the innovative relationship. This was done by analysing routine programmatic quantitative data on LTC between 2015 and 2017 and qualitatively interviewing five programme managers, four programme implementers and five HIV positive clients on their perceived success/failure factors. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic content analysis while LTC rates were descriptively analysed. Two consultative meetings presented draft findings to programme managers (n = 7) and implementers (n = 10) for feedback, results verification and confirmation.
Results: In 2015 cumulative LTC rate was 27% and it rose to 85% two years post-intervention in 2017. Six themes emerged as success factors at the health system and structural levels and these include: provision of client escort services, health facility human resource capacity strengthening, inter and intra-organisational teamwork, onsite LTC, facilitated and expedited jumping of queues and shifting administrative tasks to non-clinical staff to protect nurses' time on ART initiation. These measures in turn ensured increased, affordable and swift ART initiation of clients while strengthening client support.
Conclusions: We concluded that multi-faceted interventions that target both health system challenges including staff shortages, efficiencies, and extended facility opening times, and structural inadequacies, including client time and resource limitations due to poverty or nature of jobs, can help to increase LTC.