COVID-19 Vaccines and PLHIV

an HIV TELEHEALTH TRAINING PROGRAM supplemental session

In March 2020, we were one of the first organizations in the Philippines to conduct a series of webinars on HIV and COVID related topics, as a supplemental learning for the HTTP graduates. The webinars were developed as a way to ensure the continuity of care for People Living With HIV (PLHIVs) and at-risk groups during the COVID-19 pandemic & ensuing lockdowns.

This webinar series greatly benefitted our HTTP graduates, as well as other primary care workers, by providing timely knowledge and awareness in order to adapt and respond to the challenges brought upon by the pandemic.

This year, as the Philippine government is about to roll out a national vaccination program against COVID-19, we are at a critical point where knowledge must be shared to HIV healthcare providers, and vaccine confidence boosted among PLHIVs, while focusing on the latest science and updates on HIV and COVID-19 vaccines.

Here are the Q&A topics that followed:

The most common question sent in by attendees was whether special provisions were to be made for PLHIV for easier access to the vaccine. Worries about confidentiality, disclosure, and unnecessary exposure to the public of immunocompromised individuals were the reasons given for desire for a more localized area of distribution.

We will follow up with the Department of Health for a statement regarding this concern.

The Philippine Stigma & Discrimination Reduction Quality Improvement Learning Network

Reducing HIV-related stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings through peer learning and application of quality improvement (QI) methods

What is the problem?

HIV-related stigma and discrimination (S&D) in healthcare settings is a major barrier to achievement of UNAIDS’ 95-95-95 targets, discouraging people living with HIV (PLWH) and key populations (KP) at high risk of HIV acquisition from accessing treatment and prevention, engaging in care, and adhering to treatment. In the Philippines, where the HIV epidemic is highly concentrated among KPs of men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, and people who inject drugs, HIV-related S&D is further compounded by cultural, social, and institutional factors that discourage care seeking, undermine treatment self-efficacy, and normalize marginalization1.

A study made in 20162 demonstrated the presence of HIV-related stigma at a Philippine tertiary-level teaching hospital. The study recommended the development and implementation of programs addressing the individual, environmental, and policy levels to reduce HIV-related stigma of healthcare workers towards KPs & PLHIV and have a lasting impact on their healthcare. The responsibility of addressing S&D experienced by PLHIVs in hospitals lies with institutional leadership to ensure that HCWs are not purveyors of stigma and discrimination among PLHIV, and instead, are stewards of the safe space that healthcare should provide. For this to happen, assessment should be done at an institution level, and quality improvement (QI) measures established and promulgated. Mitigating S+D is critical to creating environments that enable health care institutions to reach these KPs and ensure that they receive HIV prevention and treatment services that are responsive to their unique identities, needs, and circumstances.

What is the solution?

In 2016, The Southeast Asia Stigma Reduction QI Learning Network (QI S+D) was set up by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF)-HEALTHQUAL, with support from Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare to accelerate integration of S&D-reduction activities into routine HIV quality management programming in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam, through continuous measurement, QI methods, and peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange4.

In 2019, the Philippines joined the Network. The national QI S+D initiative is led by the Philippine Society of Microbiology & Infectious Disease (PSMID), Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), Inc., and UNAIDS Philippines, in partnership with public and private hospitals.

 PARTICIPATING HOSPITALS (as of December 30, 2020)
Bataan General Hospital (Bataan Haven)
Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital (Bahay Lingad)
Bicol Regional Training & Teaching Hospital
Makati Medical Center (Center for Travel & Tropical Medicine)
Philippine General Hospital (Sagip Clinic)
Research Institute for Tropical Medicine
San Lazaro Hospital
St. Luke’s Medical Center – BGC
The Medical City (i-REACT Clinic)
Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital
Cebu Provincial Hospital (Balamban)
Vicente Sotto Sr. Medical Center
Southern Philippines Medical Center

Continuous measurement

As part of activities of the Philippine Network, participating hospitals will measure HIV-related S&D among healthcare workers (HCW) on a continuous basis using common indicators from a validated survey tool. In addition, these facilities will regularly collect data on patients’ experience and treatment literacy through structured questionnaires, patient fora, and clinical encounters.

QI methods

Using data from HCW surveys, patient feedback, and clinical performance data, facilities apply QI methods (e.g., process mapping, plan-do-study-act cycles) to identify root causes of suboptimal outcomes and implement contextually tailored interventions to improve identified gaps. Through this process, a broader conceptualization of quality of care is forged in which S&D reduction activities and people-centered service delivery are explicitly aligned with 95-95-95 targets (Figure 2).

How does this project work?

The Philippine QI S+D Network project seeks to accelerate progress toward achievement of UNAIDS’ 95-95-95 targets in the Philippines, by linking S&D reduction activities to routine quality improvement activities in healthcare facilities.

The Philippine project objectives are to:

  1. Develop & implement a multi-level measurement tool to determine the challenges in providing high-quality care for PLHIV in healthcare facilities in the Philippines, including issues such as stigma and discrimination
  2. Make use of data collected from the tool for improving services to provide high quality care that includes reducing stigma & discrimination
  3. Create health policy/guidelines to address challenges of providing equitable health care for PLHIVs, while improving their health care experience and increase treatment adherence
  4. Lobby for the adoption of the HIV Quality Improvement measurement tool into the nationwide HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support programs in all health facilities.

SHIP will conduct institutional S&D baseline assessments, and over the next 12 months, UCSF-HEALTHQUAL, SHIP and other implementation partners will provideongoing mentorship and support to the teams in participating hospitals, Our long-term aim is expand the Network to other hospitals & health facilities, and integration into national HIV program.

Progress and Impact

Implementation progress across participating countries, including the Philippines, is monitored by UCSF-HEALTHQUAL and shared with at the multi-country Network Meetings. Monitoring focuses on five broad domains: planning and organization, performance measurement, quality improvement, training, coaching and support. Leveraging its expertise in HIV quality management programming, UCSF-HEALTHQUAL provides technical assistance to health ministries & facilities seeking mentorship on implementation of Network activities. Activities to assess patient experience and treatment literacy through common indicators are currently being implemented, with the goal of routinely monitoring, and acting upon, these data as part of ongoing S&D reduction activities.

References

  1. UNAIDS. Confronting discrimination: overcoming HIV-related stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings and beyond. 2017.
  2. Lopez, S., et al. Measuring stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV among health workers in a tertiary, government teaching hospital in the Philippines. Acta Medica Philippina. 2017:51(4)
  • Courtesy of Laura Nyblade, RTI International
  • Ikeda, D. et.al.,  A quality improvement approach to the reduction of HIV-related stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings. BMJ Global Health. 2019; 4(3): e001587.
  • Courtesy of UCSF-HEALTHQUAL