Investigating the implementation of differentiated HIV services and implications for pregnant and postpartum women: A mixed methods multi-country study

Glob Public Health. 2021 Feb;16(2):274-287. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2020.1795221. Epub 2020 Jul 29.


Universal antiretroviral therapy (ART) for pregnant and postpartum women in sub-Saharan Africa has required adaptations to service delivery. We compared national policies on differentiated HIV service delivery with facility-level implementation, and explored provider and user experiences in rural Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa. Four national policies and two World Health Organization guidelines on HIV treatment for pregnant and postpartum women published between 2013 and 2017 were reviewed and summarised. Results were compared with implementation data from surveys undertaken in 34 health facilities. Eighty-seven in-depth interviews were conducted with pregnant and post-partum women living with HIV, their partners and providers. In 2018, differentiated service policies varied across countries. None specifically accounted for pregnant or postpartum women. Malawian policies endorsed facility-based multi-month scripting for clinically-stable adult ART patients, excluding pregnant or breastfeeding women. In Tanzania and South Africa, national policies proposed community-based and facility-based approaches, for which pregnant women were not eligible. Interview data suggested some implementation of differentiated services for pregnant and postpartum women beyond stipulated policies in all settings. Although these adaptations were appreciated by pregnant and postpartum women, they could lead to frustrations among other users when criteria for fast-track services or multi-month prescriptions were not clear.

Keywords: ART delivery; HIV; HIV policy implementation; differentiated service delivery; sub-Saharan Africa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy