This article is published in Malaria Journal and is written by Sylvie Zongo, Valérie Farquet and Valéry Ridde. This research article is published in open access and you can download it hereunder.
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Since 2012, rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) for malaria have been in use nationwide in Burkina Faso. The objective is to strengthen health professionals’ diagnostic capabilities and promote good therapeutic practices. A qualitative study was conducted to learn about the adoption of this tool in the natural context of a national scale-up policy.
This study involved five health centres in two health districts. Twenty-eight individual interviews were conducted in 2013 with health professionals and members of the health district management teams. Health professionals’ RDT use and drug prescription practices were observed during 278 curative care consultations over 5 weeks.
Health professionals assessed the use of RDT positively as it allowed them to reach clear and accurate diagnoses and above all to deliver appropriate, rational care. However, the introduction of RDTs did not really change their diagnostic practices or prescribing practices for artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). They continued to rely predominantly on symptoms in establishing their diagnoses because of doubts regarding the reliability of the tests and the occasional stockouts of RDTs experienced by the health centres. Patients with negative RDT results continued to receive anti-malarial treatments. However, the situation remains quite heterogeneous.
The use of RDTs points to the co-existence of official standards and different standards applied in practice. Setting up regular supervision activities provided an opportunity to observe and understand the various obstacles encountered by health professionals and to monitor how official directives are put into practice. For efficient use of RDTs and their results, health professionals need information and directives that are up-to-date and standardized.