An exploration of male participation in a PMTCT programme in West Itam, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria
Since the introduction in 2005 of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria the PMTCT programme has faced several challenges including that of poor male participation in the PMTCT programme. To date no research has focused on the issue of male participation in PMTCT programmes in Akwa Ibom State, and there is thus a limited understanding of why so few male partners of HIVpositive pregnant women participate in the State's PMTCT programme. It is therefore important to explore the factors affecting male involvement in PMTCT programmes in Akwa Ibom State, so that strategies can be put in place to help improve the overall health of their families and themselves. The overall aim of the study was thus to explore the factors affecting male participation in the PMTCT programme at a primary health care center in West Itam, Akwa Ibom State, in Nigeria. This explorative study was conducted using a descriptive qualitative research approach. The research study approach helped to understand the perspectives of the male partners of HIV positive pregnant women who received the PMTCT intervention, as well as key informants in the Primary Health Care (PHC) facility where these PMTCT services are offered. The study population consisted of all males living within the catchment area of the West Itam PHC, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. In the research study, 11 men were purposively sampled: five of whom were the partners of HIV-positive women who had attended, or were currently attending the PMTCT services at the West Itam PHC with their partner. The other six interviewees were local male community members – who would be eligible to potentially accompany their partner to PMTCT services at the facility. The data was collected through individual, in-depth interviews with the male partners and community members using a semi-structured interview guide. One focus group discussion (FGD) was conducted with key personnel working in the West Itam PHC using a semistructured interview guide. All interviews and the FGD were tape-recorded and transcribed. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Ethical approval was first obtained from the UWC Research Ethics Committee and the Ethics Committee of the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health before proceeding with the study. From this study, it is suggested that most of the respondents knew that PMTCT services are offered at the PHC West Itam. They knew their partner's next antenatal appointment, but only very few accompany their pregnant partners to the antenatal clinic. The striking reason being a lack of time/being busy. The key means of support of the partners' antenatal visits was giving their pregnant partners money for transport, and money for food/snacks (at the clinic). Inter-spousal communication was found to be good, and there appeared to be a perception by the men that antenatal clinic (ANC)/PMTCT is not only for women, with most of the men agreeing that it is useful for men to participate in PMTCT. The barriers to male participation in the PMTCT programme that were elicited in this study include lack of belief about HIV/AIDS and lack of awareness about PMTCT and the perception of PMTCT as a "women's affair". Another barrier to male participation in the PMTCT programme was the men being busy with their jobs/lack of time, and fear. Facility-based barriers include delays/time wasting at the clinic, and the nurses, who were identified as having an unaccommodating attitude towards the clients. Finally, the fact that the nurses and counsellors at the PHC West Itam were all female was a problem for men. It is recommended that there is need for advocacy and education to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, and encourage male participation in PMTCT. It is also important to encourage the disclosure of HIV status by the women to their male partners. Furthermore, a separate male counselling unit needs to be created, as well as ensuring the employment of male nurses and counsellors. Additionally, the female nurses at the facility need to be trained/re-trained on proper attitude and confidentiality, and efforts must be made to avoid delays at the clinic.