Cultural and Social Factors Impacting on the Programme to Prevent-Mother-To-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in Namibia: a Case Study of the Kavango Region
Shirungu, Michael M.J.
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This study focuses on socio-cultural issues, which affect Kavango women's decision to participate in the PMTCT programme. It investigates the treatment methods used by HIV-positive pregnant women for themselves and their unborn babies, neonatally, during pregnancy and after delivery, particularly in relation to the prevention of transmission of HIV. The thesis further investigates whether women choose alternative services such as traditional healers for medical attention during pregnancy, birth and post-natally. The research aims to establish and describe the role of local notions and practices concerning anti-retrovirals on the aforementioned programme. Ethnographic and thus qualitative research methods were used to gather and analyze data. I spent three months working as a nurse in two health facilities that offer PMTCT in Rundu, Kavango. I also held semi-structured and open-ended interviews, formal and informal discussions, formal and informal focus groups with nurses, community counselors, pregnant women, women who had recently given birth in the health care facility and traditional health care practitioners. In the case of the latter, I utilized narratives of healing to understand their perception of HIV/AIDS, their beliefs and practices as well as their healing methods. Furthermore, I employed other informal conversations outside the formal research participants. The study shows that there is a paucity of partner involvement and in some cases women have to first seek permission from their partner before enrolling into the programme. My research findings further indicate that women utilized various traditional herbal medicines for themselves and their babies as part of their cultural beliefs and practices. It was evident that some of these, such as Likuki, affect women's participation in and adherence to the protocols of the PMTCT programme.