Understanding the association between caregiver sex and HIV infection among orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania: learning from the USAID Kizazi Kipya project

Amon Exavery, John Charles, Erica Kuhlik, Asheri Barankena, Alison Koler, Levina Kikoyo & Elizabeth Jere - BMC Health Services Research



Tanzania has met only 50.1% of the 90% target for diagnosing HIV in children. The country’s pediatric case finding strategy uses global best practices of index testing, provider-initiated counselling and testing, and targeted community testing of at-risk populations to find about 50,000 children living with HIV (CLHIV) who are undiagnosed. However, context-specific strategies are necessary to find the hidden children to meet the full 90% target. This study assesses whether sex of the caregiver is associated with HIV status of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) as a valuable strategy for enhanced pediatric case findings.


Data originate from the community-based, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Kizazi Kipya Project, which works towards increasing OVC’s and their caregivers’ uptake of HIV/AIDS and other health and social services in Tanzania. Included in this study are 39,578 OVC ages 0–19 years who the project enrolled during January through March 2017 in 18 regions of Tanzania and who voluntarily reported their HIV status. Data analysis involved multi-level logistic regression, with OVC HIV status as the outcome of interest and caregiver’s sex as the main independent variable.


Three-quarters (74.3%) of the OVC included in the study had female caregivers, and their overall HIV prevalence was 7.1%. The prevalence was significantly higher (p < 0.001) among OVC with male caregivers (7.8%) than among OVC with female caregivers (6.8%), and indeed, multivariate analysis showed that OVC with male caregivers were significantly 40% more likely to be HIV-positive than those with female caregivers (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.08–1.83). This effect was the strongest among 0–4 year-olds (OR = 4.02, 95% CI 1.61–10.03), declined to 1.72 among 5–9 year-olds (OR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.02–2.93), and lost significance for children over age 9 years. Other significant factors included OVC age and nutritional status; caregiver HIV status and marital status; household health insurance status, and family size; and rural versus urban residence.


OVC in Tanzania with male caregivers have a 40% higher likelihood of being HIV-positive than those with female caregivers. HIV risk assessment activities should target OVC with male caregivers, as well as OVC who have malnutrition, HIV-positive caregivers, or caregivers who do not disclose their HIV status to community volunteers. Further, younger HIV-positive OVC are more likely to live in rural areas, while older HIV-positive OVC are more likely to live in urban areas. These factors should be integrated in HIV risk assessment algorithms to enhance HIV testing yields and pediatric case-finding in the OVC population in Tanzania.