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Keywords:

  • Health workers;
  • HIV prevention;
  • Malawi;
  • peer group intervention

Abstract

Purpose: To test a peer group intervention to address personal HIV prevention needs of rural health workers in Malawi.

Design: Using a quasi-experimental design, we compared district health workers in two districts of Malawi that were randomly assigned to either the intervention or delayed control condition. We used independent sample surveys at baseline, 15 months, and 30 months postintervention. Intervention district workers received a peer group intervention after the baseline; control district workers received the delayed intervention after final data collection.

Methods: The 10-session intervention for primary prevention of HIV infection was based on the primary healthcare model, behavioral change theory, and contextual tailoring based on formative evaluation. Differences in HIV-related knowledge, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behaviors were analyzed using t tests and multiple regression controlling for baseline differences.

Findings: Health workers in the intervention district had higher general HIV knowledge, more positive attitudes about condoms, higher self-efficacy for safer sex, and more involvement in community HIV prevention at both the 15-month and 30-month postintervention survey. At 30 months, intervention district workers also reported less stigmatizing attitudes toward persons living with AIDS, more HIV tests, and lower risky sexual behaviors.

Conclusion: The intervention should be sustained in current sites and scaled up for health workers throughout Malawi as part of a multisectoral response to HIV prevention.

Clinical Relevance: Incorporating a peer group intervention focused on personal as well as work-related HIV prevention can reduce health workers’ risky behaviors in their personal lives, potentially reducing morbidity and mortality and enhancing workforce retention. Reducing stigmatizing attitudes may also improve the quality of health services.