Assessment of a Community Support Worker Intervention for Persons Living With HIV (PLWH) in Rural Ethiopia (SHAMA)

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University of Minnesota (UMN)






Other: Community Support Worker

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


This study, to be conducted in southern Ethiopia, is a randomized community trial, evaluating the use of local community support workers who provide for HIV patients education, counseling/social support, and linkage to the HIV Clinic. Patients will be followed for at least three years, with a primary goal of improving retention in HIV care, and secondary goals of improving client knowledge, attitudes about being HIV-positive, feelings of social support and clinical health status.

Full description

As a critical gap in the HIV cascade of care in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, many patients entering HIV care are lost to follow-up (LTFU), especially within the first 1-2 years. Many such patients die without treatment or return with advanced immune suppression. Our studies in Ethiopia indicate that HIV patients in rural settings (where HIV is increasingly treated) face multiple challenges that may impact retention in care and health status, including lack of knowledge about HIV treatment, internal and perceived stigma, social isolation, and poor access to the medical care system. Although HIV programs have used community support workers (CSWs) to address these and other challenges, evidence for efficacy of CSW programs is largely based on observational and single site studies, and factors associated with positive outcomes are not well understood. During 2011-2012, we successfully implemented a pilot community intervention to support HIV patients in rural Ethiopia, using CSWs who were themselves HIV positive. Among HIV patients newly enrolled in care, LTFU was minimal, and clients had significant improvement in HIV knowledge, mental and physical quality of life, and perceived social support, with reduction in chronic symptoms and internal stigma. Using an intervention grounded in the conceptual framework of social support as buffering against the negative effects of stressful events, we propose to rigorously evaluate a CSW intervention in a large multi-site community randomized trial. In Ethiopia's Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Region, 16 hospitals and 32 health centers will be randomized to intervention or control arms. For each intervention site, CSWs from that local area will be hired, trained, and assigned to HIV positive clients to provide in community settings: informational support (education/counseling); emotional support (to addressed internal and perceived stigma), companionship support (to reduce social isolation), and instrumental support (with increased access to the HIV clinical care system). 2,640 newly diagnosed HIV patients from these sites will receive a baseline assessment and will be followed for 36 months with yearly follow-up assessments with: (a) health surveys that include knowledge about HIV treatment, internal and perceived stigma, feelings of social support, and physical and mental health (quality of life), and (b) data from the clients' HIV Clinic record, including dates of clinic visits (to assess ongoing retention in care) clinical status, cluster of differentiation (CD4+) count and body mass index. We hypothesize that compared to HIV patients in the control arm, those in the intervention arm will have reduced LTFU from HIV clinical care over 36 months of follow-up (Aim 1), and increased knowledge, feelings of social support, and health status, and decreased feelings of internal/perceived stigma and social isolation (Aim 2). We will also evaluate the extent to which factors in Aim 2 are predictive of retention in care (Aim 3). These results will have strong research implications to improve community programs to strengthen the HIV care continuum and decentralized HIV care not only in Ethiopia, but many other resource-limited settings.


1,799 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • new enrollment in HIV care at hospital or health clinic in the target region within the previous 3 months, and
  • age >18 years

Exclusion criteria

  • inability to give consent because of physical or mental incapacity

Trial design

Primary purpose

Supportive Care



Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

1,799 participants in 2 patient groups

Experimental group
At each of the intervention sites, all newly enrolled participants will have an HIV community support worker (CSW) assigned them. Strong preference will be given to matching CSWs and clients from the same kebele (village or neighborhood of residence). CSW responsibilities include: education on HIV treatment and health promoting behaviors, social support/counseling, facilitated communication with the HIV clinic, referrals as needed for other support needs.
Other: Community Support Worker
Standard of Care
No Intervention group
At control sites, patients will receive standard of care facility-based medical care and counseling, consistent with general standards of care offered to HIV patients throughout the country as determined by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from

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