Partner involvement is fundamental in prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) programmes, but has been difficult to achieve. In a recent study researchers from the Centre for International Health aimed to explore the acceptability of the PMTCT programme components and to identify structural and cultural challenges to male involvement. This study has now been published in the Journal of International AIDS Society.
Study in Tanzania
The study was conducted during 2007-2008 in rural and urban areas of Moshi in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. Mixed methods were used and included focus group discussions with fathers and mothers, in-depth interviews with fathers, mothers and health personnel, and a survey of 426 mothers bringing their four-week-old infants for immunization at five reproductive and child health clinics.
Skepticism from the men
Routine testing for HIV of women at the antenatal clinic proved to be highly acceptable and appreciated by men. However, other programme components, notably partner testing, condom use and the infant feeding recommendations, were met with continued resistance. Very few men joined their wives for testing and thus missed out on PMTCT counseling.
Gender hierarchy is a challenge
Deep-seated ideas about gender roles and hierarchy are major obstacles to male participation in the PMTCT programme. Empowering men to participate by creating a space within the PMTCT programme that is male friendly should be feasible and should be highly prioritized for the PMTCT programme to achieve its potential.