Investigating the interface between health system reform and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: an approach for improving the fight against the epidemic

  • Rasmus C Dawes Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 10, 1350 Copenhagen K, Denmark


During the period in which the HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken hold in sub-Saharan Africa, health system reforms have and continue to be introduced throughout the region. In spite of the multidisciplinary research undertaken, it can be questioned whether the relationships between processes of reform and some of the critical issues of HIV/AIDS response have been fully appreciated. This is particularly worrying since many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have already embarked on reform whilst concurrently and independently attempting to develop and manage effective responses to the overwhelming challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This paper explores the relationship between health system reform and HIV/AIDS, and argues that an interface approach is crucial for understanding the complexity of combating the epidemic whilst reforming health systems. The interface refers to the interacting processes between reform and the effects of the disease and attempts to respond to it. It includes the ways in which reforms, and such features as decentralisation and user fees, affect the capacity to fight HIV/AIDS, and conversely how the implications of the disease affect the performance of reformed health systems. Two sets of constraints in the interface are defined: internal and delivery constraints. The former are illustrated by deteriorating levels of human resources, poor integration of HIV/AIDS activities and problems faced by tiered health systems. The latter are illustrated by issues of access to relevant health services and rural–urban disparities. Issues in the interface need to be addressed by researchers and implementers in order to move forward in containing the epidemic.

Keywords: health system reform; HIV/AIDS; interface; internal and delivery constraints sub-Saharan Africa

(Af J AIDS Res: 2003 2(1): 23-31)

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445