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Limited Male Involvement in Vertical HIV Prevention Interventions Worry Health Workers

The limited male involvement in the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV continues to bother health workers, saying it may retard the progress registered so far. 

In 2013, the Ministry of Health on recommendations from the World Health Organization undertook a serious campaign to ensure the total Elimination of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV-EMTCT by providing medical interventions that can enable HIV-positive mothers to give birth to negative babies. 

Through the EMTCT program, a woman living with HIV is enrolled in antiretroviral treatment and closely monitored during pregnancy to achieve viral load suppression, which according to medics virtually eliminates the possibility of transmitting the virus to the newborn child also referred to as vertical transmission of the virus.   

Maurine Namirembe, a Principal Midwife, and in charge of Kitovu Mobile AIDs Support Health Centre in Masaka, is worried that the successes of the campaign are being threatened by limited male support to their spouses hence increasing the vulnerability of the new babies.  

She argues that the responsibility of protecting newborn babies from acquiring the virus during and after birth has largely been left to mothers and health workers, which partly affects the effectiveness of the program interventions. 

Out of the 25 mothers currently on the EMTCT program, less than 20% were escorted by their husbands during the course of pregnancy and postpartum periods. She explains that the reluctance of the men is also an impediment to status disclosure between couples, hence affecting adherence to treatment by mothers and babies, which plays a central role in the EMTCT campaign.   

In some cases, the ART Clinic at the facility has according to Namirembe registered instances where mothers have failed to show up for drug refills and routine medical monitoring during pregnancy and after delivery, because their husbands have not provided them with the required morale and financial support, hence increasing the risk of spreading the virus to their babies.    

As a remedy, Namirembe says that they have resorted to encouraging expectant mothers to lure their husbands to embrace the HIV self-testing method such that men can also know their status and eventually be part of the process to create a safe environment for the babies. 

She says they are also engaging the different stakeholders including men’s social groups, and cultural and religious leaders asking them to use their leverage to mobilize their colleagues for increased participation in HIV prevention campaigns. 

According to the 2021 performance report by the Ministry of Health, Uganda has registered a significant reduction in the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 20 percent in 2000 to 2.8 percent as of last year.  

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