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More than 40,000 children are born with HIV each year in Tanzania. Many of them will not live past their second birthdays.While treatment and care during pregnancy can prevent an HIV-positive mother from passing the disease on to her baby—and Tanzania has increased the number of health care facilities offering these services—mother-to-child transmission is still a problem in the country. Pediatric infections account for about 18% of all new HIV infections in Tanzania.
Think of the impact we could have on this epidemic if we could eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Getting men involved in the process is critical.
My experience teaching nursing students over the past few months in Tanzania as a volunteer for the Global Health Service Partnership has given life to my research on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
During my rounds, I have been able to experience something that I had written about for my dissertation and was eager to explore more in the field: male partner involvement in neonatal services to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Getting men involved in the process during the pregnancies of their partners who are HIV positive is critical to preventing transmission of the disease to their babies.Despite studies showing that most men encourage their partners to access these services, not many actually participate in prenatal HIV counseling or get tested themselves due to cultural norms. I have been excited to work with my community health students in Tanzania to help address this problem.
My students told me they saw a lack of partner involvement during their community health project in a nearby village. In class, we discuss the factors that keep men from participating—such as the belief that pregnancy and child care are a woman’s responsibilities—and the different strategies that health facilities could adopt to encourage participation, such as creating a more welcoming environment for male partners and sensitizing men to the benefits of their involvement.
Women who come to the health center with their partners do not have to wait in line.
It has been encouraging to see how the health center where I work has implemented some of the strategies I have been teaching in my classes. For example, women who come in for care with their partners are prioritized and do not have to wait in line. This benefit encourages women to continue bringing their partners for their visits and encourages those women who did not bring their partners to do so in the future. The health center staff tells me that these practices have already led to an increase in proportion of male participation by about 50% since the practices were implemented.
Although we have more work to do, I am heartened by the commitment of my students and fellow health care professionals to get more men in Tanzania involved in mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention services. I know they are and will continue to be an integral part of improving the overall health of mothers and babies in Tanzania so that more children will live to their second birthdays and help us one day stop the AIDS epidemic.
Seed Global Health’s mission is to help alleviate the shortage of health care professionals and help build sustainable health systems in countries where there is a critical need. To achieve this mission, Seed Global Health works through a unique public-private partnership with the Peace Corps and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) called the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) to support US doctors and nurses as faculty in medical and nursing schools in Africa. GHSP volunteers educate and mentor local medical and nursing trainees and faculty at partner institutions in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. Visit http://seedglobalhealth.org/the-need/joint-program/ for more information. Photo courtesy of Seed Global Health.
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