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Involving fathers in prevention of mother to child transmission initiatives − what the evidence suggests

Lorraine Sherr, Natasha Croome


Introduction: The current UNAIDS goal towards virtual ending or elimination of infants acquiring HIV by 2015 is perhaps the most achievable goal to date. Yet, models show that delivery of antiretroviral compounds alone will not suffice to achieve this goal, and a broader community-based approach to pregnancy, families and HIV is needed. Such an approach would highlight the important role of men in reproduction. Although early studies have shown it is cost-effective to include males, very few interventions have proceeded to involve men.

Methods: This review utilized systematic review techniques to explore the literature on effective interventions for the inclusion of men in the prevention of HIV to infants. A key word search of literature sources generated 248 studies for hand sorting and interrogation. Of these, 13 were found to contain some information on involvement of males in some form of provision. Data were abstracted from these and form the basis of this review.

Results: Background descriptive studies painted a picture of low male involvement, poor male inclusion and barriers to engagement at all stages. Yet, pregnancy intentions among men affected by HIV are high and the importance of fathers to family functioning − from relationships, through conception, pregnancy and parenting − is well established. Search strategies for interventions for males in HIV and pregnancy were used to generate studies of sufficient quality to inform strategies on the future of male involvement. Of the 317,434 papers on pregnancy and HIV, only 4178 included the term male (paternal or father). When these were restricted to intervention studies, only 248 remained for hand sorting, generating 13 studies of relevance for data extraction. The results show that all these interventions were concentrated around male partner HIV testing. In general, male partner testing was low and was amenable to change by offering voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) information, providing couple-based testing facilities and encouraging male attendance. All interventions used indirect approaches to men via their pregnant spouse. Non-health facility (clinic or hospital)-based provision (such as testing facilities in the community in bars and churches) were more effective than healthcare facilities in attracting male participation.

Conclusions: In conclusion, the review showed that approaches to men are limited to HIV testing with little innovative planning and provision for male treatment and care. As such, initiatives run the risk of alienating rather than including males. Direct approaches and the provision of male-specific facilities and benefits should be explored.

Keywords: HIV; PMTCT; fathers; male involvement; VCT

(Published: 11 July 2012)

Citation: Sherr L and Croome N. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2012, 15(Suppl 2):17378 |

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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax and Kenneth Mayer

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