Objective. To describe a systematic procedure for adapting, or ‘tailoring’ the World Health Organisation's ‘global guidelines for the management of HIV/AIDS in adults and children’ for use in two developing countries: Malawi and Barbados.

Design. In order for these guidelines to achieve reproducibility, clinical flexibility, and clinical applicability, a systematic procedure is needed to tailor the guidelines to the local practice conditions of specific settings.

Methods. A group of local experts in each country used a nominal group process to modify the global program on AIDS (GPA) guidelines for local use. Semantic analysis techniques, known as clinical algorithm nosology (CAN), were used to compare the two modified guidelines with the global ones to determine the extent and type of differences between sets of guidelines.

Results. Standard, locally-tailored algorithm map guidelines (AMG) were developed within 4 months. CAN semantic analysis showed that guideline structure was maintained; 572/858 (66.6%) decision nodes were found to be the same in the GPA/Malawi, GPA/Barbados and Malawi/Barbados comparisons. However, different guideline versions managed patients quite differently, as evidenced by clinical algorithm patient abstraction (CAPA) scores of between 0 and 8.46 (0 = different; 8 = similar; 10 = identical). Analysis of the 197 specific differences found in these abstractions showed that 83% were in approaches to diagnosis and therapy, while the remaining 17% related to disease prevalence.

Conclusions. Standard techniques involving consensus used to develop clinical guidelines can also be employed to tailor these guidelines to local settings. Semantic analysis shows that the tailoring preserves structure but may involve significant modification to the processes of clinical care that could in turn affect care outcomes.