Understanding health systems challenges in providing Advanced HIV Disease (AHD) care in a hub and spoke model: a qualitative analysis to improve AHD care program in Malawi

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



BMC health services research








Advanced HIV; HIV; Health systems challenges; Hub and spoke model; Malawi


BACKGROUND: Despite tremendous progress in antiretroviral therapy (ART) and access to ART, many patients have advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease (AHD). Patients on AHD, whether initiating ART or providing care after disengagement, have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) launched an enhanced care package using a hub-and-spoke model to optimize AHD care in Malawi. This model improves supply availability and appropriate linkage to care. We utilized a hub-and-spoke model to share health facility challenges and recommendations on the AHD package for screening and diagnosis, prophylaxis, treatment, and adherence support. METHODS: This qualitative study assessed the facility-level experiences of healthcare workers (HCWs) and lay cadres (LCs) providing AHD services to patients through an intervention package. The study population included HCWs and LCs supporting HIV care at four intervention sites. Eligible study participants were recruited by trained Research Assistants with support from the health facility nurse to identify those most involved in supporting patients with AHD. A total of 32 in-depth interviews were conducted. Thematic content analysis identified recurrent themes and patterns across participants' responses. RESULTS: While HCWs and LCs stated that most medications are often available at both hub and spoke sites, they reported that there are sometimes limited supplies and equipment to run samples and tests necessary to provide AHD care. More than half of the HCWs stated that AHD training sufficiently prepared them to handle AHD patients at both the hub and spoke levels. HCWs and LCs reported weaknesses in the patient referral system within the hub-and-spoke model in providing a linkage of care to facilities, specifically improper referral documentation, incorrect labeling of samples, and inconsistent availability of transportation. While HCWs felt that AHD registers were time-consuming, they remained motivated as they thought they provided better patient services. CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the importance of offering comprehensive AHD services. The enhanced AHD program addressed weaknesses in service delivery through decentralization and provided services through a hub-and-spoke model, improved supply availability, and strengthened linkage to care. Additionally, addressing the recommendations of service providers and patients is essential to improve the health and survival of patients with AHD.