The number of pregnant women accompanied by their spouses to attend antenatal care clinics (ANC) has increased at Usokami Health Centre from 32 in year 2008 to 204 in 2011.
Sister Maria Elisabetta Rosso of Usokami Health Centre in Iringa region, says the increase follows her centre’s efforts to involve men in protecting children from getting HIV infections from their mothers (PMTCT).
“TUNAJALI introduced us to good data keeping system which enables us make informed decisions. It is through data we realised that there was a high number of children with HIV and decided to work towards HIV infection free generation,” says Sister Elisabetta.
She says from the data they discovered that many mothers attended clinics alone without their spouses, “Knowing the importance of men in households’ decision-making we brainstormed on how we could bring them on board,” she says.
The centre first identified the reasons why men were not accompanying their partners to clinic services only to find that some of the reasons included lack of knowledge, fear of HIV-test results and being too busy.
“We convened community meetings and talked about couples’ counseling, men’s parental responsibilities in protecting their families and their right to know how to protect them,” she says. “We also had meetings with CTC staff and home-based care staff on handling male clients.”
Following the meetings, men started accompanying their spouses to clinics and as a result they work hand in hand with their beloved ones to protect their children from HIV infection.
Sister Elisabetta says if men are involved in PMTCT there are more likely to support their spouses in adhering to conditions given to HIV+ mothers in relation to not transmitting the virus to their children such as the use of Nevirapine prophylaxis and exclusive breastfeeding.
Apart from couples’ issues, the centre also addressed shortage of reagents, staffing and PMTCT training for staff to improve the services.