Option B+ team members Melissa Watt and Cody Cichowitz traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to present at the AIDS Impact Conference, an international behavioral and psychosocial science conference addressing issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care. Cody gave two oral presentations reflecting work from the B+ cohort and analysis of Kilimanjaro region medical record data. His presentations on retention in care across the PMTCT continuum under Option B+, and HIV-related shame, HIV acceptance, and attitudes about long-term ART fit well into their respective symposia, “Preventing mother-to-child transmission: new insights” and “Stigma: the invisible killer.” In addition to sharing early results from the team’s work, the conference provided valuable opportunities to meet fellow researchers, share ideas, and foster a renewed commitment to addressing the AIDS epidemic.
As part of the Masters of Science in Global Health program at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), students complete a faculty-mentored, field-based research experience between the first and second years of their program. The Option B+ team was lucky to have a wonderful MSc student, Dr. Lilian Chumba, join the team during her time at DGHI. Over the summer of 2017, Lilian, a trained medical doctor from Kenya, completed qualitative data collection focusing on Aim #1 of the study, examining facility- and provider-level factors affecting Option B+ implementation. Lilian completed observation protocols at three of the Option B+ healthcare facilities, noting the clinic set up, provider-patient interactions, provider-provider interactions, clinic record keeping, and relationships among the clinic departments. She complemented these observations with 30 key informant interviews with health service providers involved in HIV care for pregnant women, including doctors, nurses, and home-based care providers.
Lilian presented preliminary findings from her project at the DGHI Student Showcase on November 1st, 2017 and will continue to analyze the data as part of her Master’s thesis. The data are crucial to understanding how the Option B+ protocol is implemented in Tanzanian healthcare facilities, and addressing the facility-level factors that support or impede successful implementation. Lilian’s work will be used to make recommendations to local clinics on how they may improve in their implementation of the Option B+ protocol, and will also inform new interventions aimed at addressing lapses in HIV care.