An exploration of timing of disclosure to male partners by HIV positive women attending a health care centre in Lusaka, Zambia
Bweupe, Maximillian M.
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Disclosure of HIV positive status to male partners is well established as a key element in the success of prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV programmes, as it helps improve adherence to ARVs by the women within these programme. However, partner notification rates remain low in the urban areas of Lusaka, Zambia against a high HIV prevalence of 25%. The purpose of this study was to explore the timing of disclosure as part of the process of disclosure amongst women who were part of the PMTCT services at Kaulu health centre in Lusaka. An exploratory descriptive study using qualitative research methods was conducted. 15 women, who were attending the Kaulu health centre PMTCT programme, were requested to participate in a semi-structured interview. The women, who were purposively selected with the aid of the health centre‟s PMTCT focal point nurse, had to have disclosed their HIV positive status to their partner, either before or during the course of their pregnancy or after delivery. To increase rigour, individual interviews were conducted with 5 health workers associated with the PMTCT programme so as to obtain their perspective and experiences on the issue of HIV disclosure amongst their PMTCT patients. Participation in the study was voluntary and all information obtained during the course of the interviews remained confidential and secure. Potential participants were each provided with an explanation of the purpose and process of the study and their informed written consent obtained before the researcher embarked on the interviews. Content analysis of the transcripts was done so as to develop coding categories and identify emerging themes. Disclosure to male partners is an important step in PMTCT and facilitates adherence to HIV care for the family and should be done as early as possible after the woman receives her HIV test result, though there exists a range of alternative times when it can be done. The relationship existing between a couple is very important in determining the timing of when a woman chooses to disclose. PMTCT services need to provide ongoing counselling for HIV positive women during pregnancy and after giving birth that supports, informs and equips them with the necessary skills to make an informed and timely decision about disclosure to a partner. In addition, the PMTCT service providers need to be encouraged to implement couple counselling as a strategy to facilitate disclosure as well as establishment of a peer support network for HIV positive pregnant women. The study findings will be used to contribute to health workers‟ capacity to support women manage the disclosure process to their male partners, thus helping to increase the disclosure rate and also contributing to improving the positive effect of the PMTCT services, in Lusaka, Zambia.