BACKGROUND: To improve retention in antiretroviral therapy (ART), lessons learned from chronic disease care were applied to HIV care, providing more responsibilities to patients in the care of their chronic disease. In Tete--Mozambique, patients stable on ART participate in the ART provision and peer support through Community ART Groups (CAG). This article analyses the evolution of the CAG-model during its implementation process.
METHODS: A mixed method approach was used, triangulating qualitative and quantitative findings. The qualitative data were collected through semi-structured focus groups discussions and in-depth interviews. An inductive qualitative content analysis was applied to condense and categorise the data in broader themes. Health outcomes, patients' and groups' characteristics were calculated using routine collected data. We applied an 'input--process--output' pathway to compare the initial planned activities with the current findings.
RESULTS: Input wise, the counsellors were considered key to form and monitor the groups. In the process, the main modifications found were the progressive adaptations of the daily CAG functioning and the eligibility criteria according to the patients' needs. Beside the anticipated outputs, i.e. cost and time saving benefits and improved treatment outcomes, the model offered a mutual adherence support and protective environment to the members. The active patient involvement in several health activities in the clinics and the community resulted in a better HIV awareness, decreased stigma, improved health seeking behaviour and better quality of care.
CONCLUSIONS: Over the past four years, the modifications in the CAG-model contributed to a patient empowerment and better treatment outcomes. One of the main outstanding questions is how this model will evolve in the future. Close monitoring is essential to ensure quality of care and to maintain the core objective of the CAG-model 'facilitating access to ART care' in a cost and time saving manner.