The impact of programs for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV on health care services and systems in sub-Saharan Africa – A review


Background: The global scale-up of Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services is credited for a 52% worldwide decline in new HIV infections among children between 2001 and 2012. However, the epidemic continues to challenge maternal and paediatric HIV control efforts in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), with repercussions on other health services beyond those directly addressing HIV and AIDS. This systematised narrative review describes the effects of PMTCT programs on other health care services and the implications for improving health systems in SSA as reported in the existing articles and scientific literature. The following objectives framed our review:To describe the effects of PMTCT on health care services and systems in SSA and assess whether the PMTCT has strengthened or weakened health systems in SSATo describe the integration of PMTCT and its extent within broader programs and health systems. Methods: Articles published in English and French over the period 1st January 2007 (the year of publication of WHO/UNICEF guidelines on global scale-up of the PMTCT) to 31 November 2016 on PMTCT programs in SSA were sought through searches of electronic databases (Medline and Google Scholar). Articles describing the impact (positive and negative effects) of PMTCT on other health care services and those describing its integration in health systems in SSA were eligible for inclusion. We assessed 6223 potential papers, reviewed 225, and included 57. Results: The majority of selected articles offered arguments for increased health services utilisation, notably of ante-natal care, and some evidence of beneficial synergies between PMTCT programs and other health services especially maternal health care, STI prevention and early childhood immunisation. Positive and negative impact of PMTCT on other health care services and health systems are suggested in thirty-two studies while twenty-five papers recommend more integration and synergies. However, the empirical evidence of impact of PMTCT integration on broader health systems is scarce. Underlying health system challenges such as weak physical and human resource infrastructure and poor working conditions, as well as social and economic barriers to accessing health services, affect both PMTCT and the health services with which PMTCT interacts. Conclusions: PMTCT services increase to some extent the availability, accessibility and utilisation of antenatal care and services beyond HIV care. Vertical PMTCT programs work, when well-funded and well-managed, despite poorly functioning health systems. The beneficial synergies between PMTCT and other services are widely suggested, but there is a lack of large-scale evidence of this


Mutabazi JC, Zarowsky C, Trottier H




  • Population(s)
    • Women
    • Children or Youth (less than 18 years old)
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population
  • Prevention
    • Biomedical interventions


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