Factors influencing male partner involvement in the mother-to-child transmission of HIVplus (MTCT-plus) programme in Gobabis district, Namibia: a qualitative study
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Background: Although great strides have been made in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT) in Namibia, the universal target of less than 5% by 2015 has not yet been achieved. In an effort to scale-up services in the programme, a comprehensive family centred approach which broadens HIV prevention activities and considers HIV as a family disease was instituted. However its success has been affected by low male partner participation in the programme. Study aim: To investigate factors influencing male partner involvement in MTCT-plus programme in Gobabis District, Omaheke Region, Namibia. Study design and data collection: This was a cross sectional descriptive study that wasconducted using a qualitative research methodology. Data was generated through focus group discussions (FGDs) and in-depth interviews. Four same sex FGDs were conducted with men and pregnant women. The study participants were HIV positive pregnant women and HIV positive women in their postnatal period purposefully selected from the PMTCT clients. A few male participants were partners of the female participants and other men conveniently sampled from the community. Seven in-depth interviews were conducted to gather information from key informants who were programme managers and midwives. Thematic analysis was used for the data analysis. Results: Men were generally knowledgeable and appreciated the importance of participating in the MTCT-plus programme but the majority of them did not participate. They cited several barriers to actively supporting their partners. Men‘s participation in the MTCT-plus programme was affected by lack of trust in the health workers and cultural practices that shift the role of taking care of their partners to the biological parents. The other barriers included HIV related stigma, unfriendly environment at the antenatal care clinics, time and work related constraints, having many sexual partners and gender and power imbalances in relationships that affect patterns of communication on HIV related matters. Discussion: Participation in the MTCT-plus programme is well supported by men. However, few men put this into practice because of complexities surrounding their specific role in women reproductive health issues, as well as cultural practices and health facilities organizational structures that preclude men from participation in the MTCT-plus programme. Given the positive attitude by men towards participation in this programme, creating a male friendly space within the MTCT-plus programme and empowering men to participate in them should be prioritized for the programme to achieve its goals.