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Evaluation of an HIV-related mortuary surveillance system — Nairobi, Kenya, two sites, 2015
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  • DOI:
    10.15585/mmwr.ss6714a1
  • Description:
    Problem/Condition: Use of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-mortality surveillance data can help public health officials monitor, evaluate, and improve HIV treatment programs. Many high-income countries have high-coverage civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems linked to case-based HIV surveillance on which to base HIV mortality estimates. However, in the absence of comprehensive CRVS systems in low- and medium-income countries, such as Kenya, mortuary surveillance can be used to understand the occurrence of HIV infection among cadavers. In 2015, a pilot HIV-related mortuary surveillance system was implemented in the two largest mortuaries in Nairobi, Kenya. CDC conducted an evaluation to assess performance attributes and identify strengths and weaknesses of the surveillance system pilot.

    Period Covered: Data collection: January 29–March 3, 2015; evaluation: November 2015.

    Description of the System: The surveillance system objectives were to determine HIV positivity among cadavers at two mortuary sites in Nairobi, Kenya, and to determine annual cause-specific and HIV-specific mortality rates among the cadavers. Cadavers of persons aged ≥15 years at death admitted to either mortuary during a 33-day period were included. Demographic information and place and time of death were entered into a surveillance register. Cardiac blood was collected using transthoracic aspiration, and blood specimens were tested for HIV in a central laboratory. Causes of death were abstracted from mortuary and hospital records. Of the 807 cadavers brought to the mortuaries, 610 (75.6%) had an HIV test result available. The overall unadjusted HIV-positivity rate was 19.5% (119/610), which differed significantly by sex (14.6% among men versus 29.5% among women).

    Evaluation: The evaluation was conducted using CDC guidelines for evaluating public health surveillance systems. The attributes of simplicity, flexibility, data quality (completeness and validity), acceptability, sensitivity, predictive value positive, representativeness, timeliness, and stability were examined. The evaluation steps included review of the surveillance system documents, in-depth interviews with 20 key informants (surveillance system staff, including mortuary and laboratory staff, and stakeholders involved in funding or implementation), and review of the surveillance database.

    Results and Interpretation: Implementation of the pilot mortuary surveillance system was complex because of extensive paperwork and the need to collect and process specimens outside of business hours. However, the flexibility of the system accommodated multiple changes during implementation, including changes in specimen collection techniques and data collection tools. Acceptability was initially low among the mortuary staff but increased after concerns regarding workload were resolved. Timeliness of specimen collection could not be measured because time of death was rarely documented. Completeness of data available from the system was generally high except for cause of death (46.5%). Although the two largest mortuaries in Nairobi were included, the surveillance system might not be representative of the Nairobi population. One of the mortuaries was affiliated with the national referral hospital and included cadavers of admitted patients, some deaths might have occurred outside Nairobi, and data were collected for only 1 month.

    Public Health Actions: Mortuary surveillance can provide data on HIV positivity among cadavers and HIV-related mortality, which are not available from other sources in most sub-Saharan African countries. Availability of these mortality data will help describe a country’s progress toward achieving epidemic control and achieving Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS 95-95-95 targets. To understand HIV mortality in high-prevalence regions, the mortuary surveillance system is being replicated in Western Kenya. Although a low-cost system, its sustainability depends on external funding because mortuary surveillance is not yet incorporated into the national AIDS strategic framework in Kenya.

    Suggested citation for this article: Ali H, Kiama C, Muthoni L, et al. Evaluation of an HIV-Related Mortuary Surveillance System — Nairobi, Kenya, Two Sites, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2018;67(No. SS-14):1–12. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6714a1.

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