Last year, PEPFAR submitted guidelines which encouraged country staff to submit a proposal to conduct an “impact evaluation” (IE) as part of their annual Country Operation Plan (COP). Subsequently, they received four submissions, of which three were funded. But they also learned that many PEPFAR staff – who are mostly program implementers, or the managers of program implementers – didn’t fully understand what they were being asked to do; what does PEPFAR mean by “impact evaluations”?
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Earlier this month, Ambassador Goosby officially announced that he was stepping down from his role as Global AIDS Coordinator where he led the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief for the past four years. As my colleague Amanda blogged in anticipation of Dr. Goosby’s departure, his service will be remembered for strengthening the evidence base behind PEPFAR’s work.
It’s one thing to measure the quality of AIDS care; it’s another to understand how to improve it. Our last blog showed how the metaphor of the “treatment cascade” can be a useful way to conceptualize and measure the quality of AIDS care and that PEPFAR supported care has room for improvement on this measure (see more on the treatment cascade here). In order to achieve the health benefits that would result from reducing patient attrition over the course of the treatment cascade, PEPFAR and its partners need to learn why some facilities do better than others and what factors contributors to treatment success.
Counting the number of patients on treatment is no longer enough. For years even the friendliest critics of the global struggle against AIDS have pointed out that this metric unfairly neglects the people who are not put on treatment and then die, largely because their deaths are uncounted except in so far as they increase the treatment “coverage rate.” This diverts attention from the challenge of assuring that patients are retained on treatment and remain alive and healthy, rather than failing treatment and dying, sometimes after only a few months.
The Institute of Medicine, the prestigious health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, has weighed in with a massive report on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the multibillion dollar US effort to confront the epidemic in the developing world. The evaluation validates PEPFAR’s enormous reach during its first 10 years and identifies concrete actions that Congress and PEPFAR should take for the program to become more sustainable moving forward.