Background: Pediatric antiretroviral treatment coverage in resource-limited settings continues to lag behind adults. Task shifting is an effective approach broadly used for adults, which some countries have also adopted for children, but implementation is limited by lack of confidence and skills among nonspecialist staff.
Methods: A systematic review was conducted by combining key terms for task shifting, antiretroviral therapy (ART), and children. Five databases and two conferences were searched from inception till August 01, 2013.
Results: Eight observational studies provided outcome data for 11,828 children who received ART from nonphysician providers across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The cumulative pooled proportion of deaths was 3.2% [95% confidence interval (CI): 2.0 to 4.5] at 6 months, 4.6% (95% CI: 2.1 to 7.1) at 12 months, 6.2% (95% CI: 3.7 to 8.8) at 24 months, and 5.9% (95% CI: 3.5 to 8.3) at 36 months. Mortality and loss to follow-up in task-shifting programs were comparable to those reported by programs providing doctor- or specialist-led care.
Conclusions: Our review suggests that task shifting of ART care can result in outcomes comparable to routine physician care, and this approach should be considered as part of a strategy to scale-up pediatric treatment. Specialist care will remain important for management of sick patients and complicated cases. Further qualitative research is needed to inform optimal implementation of task shifting for pediatric patients.