Strategies for retention of heterosexual men in HIV care in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review

PLoS One. 2021 Feb 4;16(2):e0246471. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0246471. eCollection 2021.


Expansion of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) programs in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has increased the number of people accessing treatment. However, the number of males accessing and being retained along the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) care cascade is significantly below the UNAIDS target. Male gender has been associated with poor retention in HIV care programs, and little is known about strategies that reduce attrition of men in ART programs. This review aimed to summarize any studies on strategies to improve retention of heterosexual males in HIV care in SSA. An electronic search was conducted through Ovid® for three databases (MEDLINE®, Embase and Global Health). Studies reporting interventions aimed at improving retention among heterosexual men along the HIV care cascade were reviewed. The inclusion criteria included randomized-controlled trials (RCTs), prospective or retrospective cohort studies that studied adult males (≥15years of age), conducted in SSA and published between January 2005 and April 2019 with an update from 2019 to 2020. The search returned 1958 articles, and 14 studies from eight countries met the inclusion criteria were presented using the PRISMA guidelines. A narrative synthesis was conducted. Six studies explored community-based adherence support groups while three compared use of facility versus community-based delivery models. Three studies measured the effect of national identity cards, disclosure of HIV status, six-monthly clinic visits and distance from the health center. Four studies measured risk of attrition from care using hazard ratios ranging from 1.2-1.8, four studies documented attrition proportions at an average of 40.0% and two studies an average rate of attrition of 43.4/1000PYs. Most (62%) included studies were retrospective cohorts, subject to risk of allocation and outcome assessment bias. A pooled analysis was not performed because of heterogeneity of studies and outcome definitions. No studies have explored heterosexual male- centered interventions in HIV care. However, in included studies that explored retention in both males and females, there were high rates of attrition in males. More male-centered interventions need to be studied preferably in RCTs. Registry number: PROSPERO2020 CRD42020142923 Available from:

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Management
  • Female
  • HIV Infections*
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies