Knowledge and Perceptions of Healthcare Workers about the Implementation of the Universal Test and Treat Guideline in Under-Resourced, High-HIV Prevalence Rural Settings

Healthcare (Basel). 2023 Mar 28;11(7):968. doi: 10.3390/healthcare11070968.


Background: South Africa (SA) began implementing its Universal Test and Treat (UTT) policy in September 2016 and Same Day Initiation (SDI) in 2017, aiming to meet the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets by 2020. With significant advances in HIV testing, large gaps remain in the linkage and retention in care. As part of a contribution to the successful implementation of UTT, this study aims to examine progress in the implementation of the UTT and to identify gaps and facilitators in the successful implementation of the guidelines from the perspective of healthcare providers from under-resourced, high-HIV prevalence rural settings.

Methods: We conducted a census of all 170 professional nurses from 18 primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in Rustenburg, South Africa, between October 2018 and February 2019. The perceptions, knowledge and attitudes of nursing staff associated with UTT implementation were investigated though the dissemination of self-administered questionnaires. Stata 16.0 was used to analyse the data. Frequency and contingency tables were used to present categorical data. The precision of the estimates was measured using a 95% confidence interval (95% CI), and the p-value of statistical significance is p < 0.05.

Results: The facilities were found to have adequate governance and supervision, but gaps were identified, including staffing challenges, bottlenecks and under-resourced service delivery platforms. It was found that a high level of knowledge is a predictor of positive perception of the UTT programme and its implementation. Being supported by capacity development and having positive perceptions of UTT were important motivators for UTT implementation.

Conclusions: This study was able to identify potential facilitators of the UTT strategy implementation at the selected facilities. Clinical guidelines and policies on UTT contributed to successful implementation, which means that the process of closing the gaps identified should prioritise the delivery, support and prioritisation of capacity development, infrastructure and the provision of clinical guidelines to all healthcare workers. It is recommended that nurses receive training on UTT and its benefits to increase their knowledge and promote its successful implementation in clinics.

Keywords: HIV; South Africa; Universal Test and Treat; primary care.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.