Community-based health workers implementing universal access to HIV testing and treatment: lessons from South Africa and Zambia


The global expansion of HIV testing, prevention and treatment services is necessary to achieve HIV epidemic control and promote individual and population health benefits for people living with HIV (PLHIV) in sub-Saharan Africa. Community-based health workers (CHWs) could play a key role in supporting implementation at scale. In the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial in Zambia and South Africa, a cadre of 737 study-specific CHWs, working closely with government-employed CHW, were deployed to deliver a ‘universal’ door-to-door HIV prevention package, including an annual offer of HIV testing and referral services for all households in 14 study communities. We conducted a process evaluation using qualitative and quantitative data collected during the trial (2013–2018) to document the implementation of the CHW intervention in practice. We focused on the recruitment, retention, training and support of CHWs, as they delivered study-specific services. We then used these descriptions to: (i) analyse the fidelity to design of the delivery of the intervention package, and (ii) suggest key insights for the transferability of the intervention to other settings. The data included baseline quantitative data collected with the study-specific CHWs (2014–2018); and qualitative data from key informant interviews with study management (n = 91), observations of CHW training events (n = 12) and annual observations of and group discussions (GD) with intervention staff (n = 68). We show that it was feasible for newly recruited CHWs to implement the PopART intervention with good fidelity, supporting the interpretation of the trial outcome findings. This was despite some challenges in managing service quality and CHW retention in the early years of the programme. We suggest that by prioritizing the adoption of key elements of the in-home HIV services delivery intervention model—including training, emotional support to workers, monitoring and appropriate remuneration for CHWs—these services could be successfully transferred to new settings.


Lario Viljoen, Tila Mainga, Rozanne Casper, Constance Mubekapi-Musadaidzwa, Dillon T Wademan, Virginia A Bond, Triantafyllos Pliakas, Chiti Bwalya, Anne Stangl, Mwelwa Phiri, Blia Yang, Kwame Shanaube, Peter Bock, Sarah Fidler, Richard Hayes, Helen Ayles, James R Hargreaves, Graeme Hoddinott, J Seeley, D Donnell, S Floyd, N Mandla, J Bwalya, K Sabapathy, S H Eshleman, D Macleod, A Moore, S H Vermund, K Hauck, K Shanaube, on behalf of the HPTN 071 (PopART) study team, Community-based health workers implementing universal access to HIV testing and treatment: lessons from South Africa and Zambia—HPTN 071 (PopART). (2021). Health Policy and Planning, Volume 36, Issue 6, Pages 881–890,
Geographies South Africa Zambia

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