Objectives: To review and summarize the essential components of HIV treatment and care services in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Methods: Literature review and reflection on programmatic experience.
Findings: There is increasing recognition that the essential ‘package’ of HIV care must include early identification of HIV-positive people in need of care, appropriate initial and continued counselling, assessment of HIV disease stage, treatment with HAART for those who need it, monitoring while on treatment for efficacy, adherence and side-effects, detection and management of other complications of HIV infection, provision of sexual and reproductive health services as well as careful record-keeping.
The impressive scale-up of HIV treatment and care services has required decentralization of service provision linked to task-shifting. But the future holds even greater challenges, as the number of people in need of HIV care continues to rise at a time when many traditional donors and governments in the most-affected regions have reduced budgets.
Conclusion: In the long-term, the increased demand for HIV-care services can only be satisfied through increased decentralisation to peripheral health units, with the role of each type of unit being appropriate to the human and material resources available to it.
HIV-care services can also naturally integrate with the care of chronic noncommunicable diseases and with closely related services like mother and child health, and thus should promote a shift from vertical to integrated programming. Staff training and support around a set of evidence-based policies and guidelines and a reliable supply of essential medicines and supplies are further essential components for a successful programme.