HIV Stigma Towards Women Living with HIV Blocks Efforts to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission in India

4 October 2018

Research involving 60 prevention of mother-to-child (PMTCT) outreach workers describes numerous and persistent challenges facing pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV. The study is the first from India to focus solely on outreach worker experiences.

Researchers conducted focus groups with outreach workers in Maharashtra, a state in western and central India with an antenatal HIV prevalence of 0.5%, nearly twice the national average. Although India’s PMTCT programmes are substantial, reaching 9.75 million pregnant women with HIV testing in 2014/2015, and providing 97% of HIV-positive pregnant women and their babies with antiretroviral treatment (ART), a number of gaps remain. Outreach workers are crucial in closing these gaps by accompanying HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers to ART centres, providing monthly home visits during pregnancy, attending labour, and visiting women for prolonged periods after delivering.

HIV stigma was the most widely discussed challenge. Focus groups participants reported that women were fearful of disclosing their HIV status to husbands and other family members. This resulted in women stopping treatment because they felt unable to explain why they were on medication or might be experiencing side effects. In many cases, women had not received adequate counselling explaining the importance of staying on treatment or preparing them for side effects before initiating treatment. 

Read the full article online here.