Perspectives about policy implementation: A learning opportunity from the 2003-2013 Malawi HIV/AIDS Policy
Malawi published its first ever HIV and AIDS policy in 2003. The implementation of the policy provided a very necessary and historic step in Malawi’s organized response towards HIV and AIDS. Many achievements were registered in the period this policy was implemented. However, some components of the policy were not well-implemented. Our study explored barriers to implementation of provider initiated HIV testing and counseling (PITC) for sexually transmitted infections (STI) within general outpatient settings. Malawi also launched a revised HIV and AIDS Policy in December 2013. Although not part of this policy analysis, future years of implementation may face related issues observed during the implementation of the 2003-2013 policy.
This is a non-experimental, descriptive study using a case study design. We examined the implementation of provider initiated HIV testing and counseling component of the Malawi HIV and AIDS policy from 2003-2013 focusing on STI and outpatient clinic settings. We sought to understand perspectives of various stakeholders and users of the policy. We conducted in-depth interviews with policy makers, health care worker supervisors, health care workers and health rights activists.
Major problems which affected the implementation of the 2003-2013 HIV policy were: selective prioritization of policies by government, lack of involvement of implementers in the policy making process, non-awareness of health workers about the existence of the policy, lack of healthcare worker training, unsatisfactory supervision of policy implementation, poor harmonization of policies, lack of clarity about guidance to those directly implementing, unclear roles and reporting authority among the main national coordinating units.
Good leadership, effective coordination, involvement of key players in the policy making process, dissemination to primary users and decentralization or empowerment of local supervisors is key to successful policy implementation.