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Meeting the Needs of Adolescents Living with HIV through Home-based Care: Lessons Learned from Tanzania

Home-based care is central to HIV care and support throughout Africa. Most programs have not addressed the unique needs of adolescents living with HIV, who display lower retention in HIV care and treatment adherence. This study examined the experiences of adolescents living with HIV in Tanzania in order to identify ways to improve home-based care to better meet their needs.

We found the program did not align well with adolescents’ expectations. Adolescents felt home-based care to be more relevant to their caregivers and did not form independent relationships with providers. They expressed anxiety that participation might lead to inadvertent disclosure of their status and consequent discrimination. Both adolescents and their caregivers felt disappointment that no material or financial support was available despite widespread poverty, although they appreciated receiving psychosocial support and practical referrals. Providers demonstrated motivation to work with adolescents but acknowledged lacking requisite skills such as ways to communicate with young people and key messages to deliver.

Despite challenges, we identified feasible adaptations to make home-based care more adolescent-centered. These include actively engaging adolescents in program design, improving provider training in communication with adolescents, and proactively addressing unrealistic expectations. Finally, increasing referral links to a wider range of services could improve program effectiveness by integrating it into a broader development approach.

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