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Background: Geographical and financial barriers hamper accessibility to HIV services for rural communities. The government has introduced the nurse initiated management of anti-retroviral therapy at primary health care level, in an effort to improve patient access and reduce patient loads on facilities further up the system.
Objectives: To ascertain the perceptions and satisfaction of patients in terms of the decentralised anti-retroviral policy and the direct out-of-pocket expenses of patients accessing this care in a rural setting.
Method: Using a cross-sectional study design, 117 patients from five different primary health care collection points and a hospital anti-retroviral clinic were interviewed using a standard questionnaire.
Results: More clinic patients walked to their clinic to collect their medicines as compared to hospital patients (71.2% versus 14.6%). Hospital patients spent more than clinic patients on monthly transport costs (ZAR71.92 versus ZAR25.81, Anova F=12.42, p=0.0009). All clinic patients listed their respective clinic as their preferred medicine collection point despite recording lower levels of satisfaction with anti-retroviral services (89% compared to 95.5%).
Conclusion: Patients seem to indicate that they preferred decentralisation of HIV care to PHC level and that this might minimise out-of-pocket spending. Further studies are required to confirm these findings.
Keywords: HIV, patients perception, decentralised care, South Africa