The Ghana retention on ART study (ROARS): keeping HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral therapy
Myint Zu Kyaw, Mya
Kissiwah Asafo, Mabel
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This report presents the findings of a study that employed qualitative research methods to explore the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Ghana who are either in care and on antiretroviral therapy (ART), or are no longer in care and have been lost to follow-up. The study was designed to deepen our understanding of the challenges ART patients face in continuing on ART in Ghana and to contribute information with the potential to improve retention in care and outcomes for PLHIV in Ghana.This study was carried out by a collaborative team of researchers based at Boston University’s Center for Global and Health and Development (CGHD) and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology’s (KNUST) School of Medical Sciences. The team conducted this research in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest urban center. It is a component of the ‘Operations Research among Key Populations in Ghana’ project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). We designed and conducted the research in collaboration with the Ghana AIDS Commission (GAC).Expanding access to ART among HIV-positive individuals has been a major goal of the Ghana AIDS Commission and Ghana Health Service. Since 2005, Ghana has scaled up ART rapidly; by 2011, 150 health facilities were providing ART to over 60,000 people, an increase from fewer than 5,000 just six years earlier. At the same time, like in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring that those who begin ART remain on treatment has proven a major challenge. Previous studies suggest that retention in care for 12 months or longer is approximately 70-80% in Ghana, similar to the rate in many other low-resource settings. While research elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa indicates that a number of barriers affect retention in care, little research on this topic has been conducted in Ghana. Given that ART is currently the only known way to prolong life for PLHIV, it is critical to identify barriers that affect different groups of patients and to find ways to support them in remaining on treatment.This study was motivated by a desire to increase understanding of the challenges of and facilitators to retention in care among individuals on ART in Kumasi, Ghana. We conducted it in collaboration with the Suntreso Government Hospital, one of Kumasi’s largest medical facilities, and specifically with the hospital’s STI (sexually transmitted infection)/HIV clinic, which has experienced high levels of patient dropout from care and treatment. Together with staff at the clinic, we designed this research with the aim of contributing to understanding of the range of barriers PLHIV in Ghana experience trying to stay on treatment, the reasons they default, and the types of supports they believe would help themselves and other patients remain on or return to treatment if they do default. Our hope is that the study’s findings will add in a meaningful way to the evidence base on strategies and approaches for improving retention in treatment, thereby maximizing the potential benefits of ART, for PLHIV in Ghana.
This study was implemented by Boston University in collaboration with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology with support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the U.S. Agency for International Development under Project SEARCH Task Order No. GHH‐I‐00‐07‐00023‐00, beginning August 27, 2010. The content and views expressed here are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of USAID or the U.S. Government.