Background: In sub-Saharan Africa, failure to initiate and sustain HIV treatment contributes to significant health, psychosocial, and economic impacts that burden not only infected individuals but diverse members of their social networks. Yet, due to intense stigma, the responsibility for managing lifelong HIV treatment rests solely, and often secretly, with infected individuals. We introduce the concept of "HIV risk induction" to suggest that social networks of infected individuals share a vested interest in improving long-term engagement with HIV care, and may represent an underutilized resource for improving HIV/AIDS outcomes within high prevalence populations. Methods: In 2012, we implemented a 'microclinic' intervention to promote social network engagement in HIV/AIDS care and treatment. A microclinic is a therapy management collective comprised of a small group of neighbors, relatives, and friends who are trained as a team to provide psychosocial and adherence support for HIV-infected members. Our study population included 369 patients on ART and members of their social networks on Mfangano Island, Kenya, where HIV prevalence approaches 30%. Here we report qualitative data from 18 focus group discussions conducted with microclinic participants (. n = 82), community health workers (. n = 40), and local program staff (. n = 39). Results: Participants reported widespread acceptability and enthusiasm for the microclinic intervention. Responses highlight four overlapping community transformations regarding HIV care and treatment, namely 1) enhanced HIV treatment literacy 2) reduction in HIV stigma, 3) improved atmosphere for HIV status disclosure and 4) improved material and psychosocial support for HIV-infected patients. Despite challenges, participants describe an emerging sense of "collective responsibility" for treatment among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected members of social networks. Discussion: The lived experiences and community transformations highlighted by participants enrolled in this social network intervention in Western Kenya suggest opportunities to reframe the continuum of HIV care from a secretive individual journey into a network-oriented cycle of engagement.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We also appreciate the following awards in support of our research efforts: UCSF PACCTR and Global Health Pathways Research Programs (to CRS); a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation International Clinical Research Fellowship (to MDH); Rocca Pre-dissertation Fellowship, One Health Summer Research Fellowship, NSF GRFP, FLAS and partial support by NSF-GEO grant # 115057 (to KJF).
- ART adherence
- Continuum of care
- Social networks
- Social support