A cluster-randomized controlled trial to improve the quality of integrated HIV-tuberculosis services in primary healthcareclinics in South Africa

J Int AIDS Soc. 2021 Sep;24(9):e25803. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25803.


Introduction: Tuberculosis (TB) remains the most common cause of death among people living with HIV. Integrating HIV and TB services reduces mortality but is sub-optimally implemented. Quality improvement (QI) methods offer a low-cost and easily implementable approach to strengthening healthcare delivery systems. This trial assessed a QI intervention on key process indicators for delivering integrated HIV-TB care in rural South African primary healthcare (PHC) clinics.

Methods: Sixteen nurse supervisors, (each with a cluster of clinics) overseeing 40 PHC clinics, were randomized 1:1 to the intervention or the standard of care (SOC) groups. The QI intervention comprised three key components: clinical and QI skills training, on-site mentorship of nurse supervisors and clinic staff, and data quality improvement activities to enhance accuracy and completeness of routine clinic data. The SOC comprised monthly supervision and data feedback meetings. From 01 December 2016 to 31 December 2018, data were collected monthly by a team of study-appointed data capturers from all study clinics. This study's outcomes were HIV testing services (HTS), TB screening, antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation, isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) initiation and viral load (VL) testing.

Results: The QI group (eight clusters) comprised 244 clinic staff who attended to 13,347 patients during the trial compared to the SOC group (eight clusters) with 217 clinic staff who attended to 8141 patients. QI mentors completed 85% (510/600) of expected QI mentorship visits to QI clinics. HTS was 19% higher [94.5% vs. 79.6%; relative risk (RR)=1.19; 95% CI: 1.02-1.38; p=0.029] and IPT initiation was 66% higher (61.2 vs. 36.8; RR=1.66; 95% CI: 1.02-2.72; p=0·044), in the QI group compared to SOC group. The percentage of patients screened for TB (83.4% vs. 79.3%; RR=1.05; p=0.448), initiated on ART (91.7 vs. 95.5; RR=0.96; p=0.172) and VL testing (72.2% vs. 72.8%; RR=0.99; p=0.879) was similar in both groups.

Conclusions: QI improved HIV testing and IPT initiation compared to SOC. TB screening, ART initiation and VL testing remained similar. Incorporating QI methods into routine supervision and support activities may strengthen integrated HIV-TB service delivery and increase the success of future QI scale-up activities.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02654613.

Keywords: HIV-TB services; cluster-randomized; collaboratives; integration; primary healthcare clinics; quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Isoniazid
  • South Africa
  • Tuberculosis* / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis* / drug therapy


  • Isoniazid

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02654613