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AIDS Care. 2012;24(10):1233-9. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2012.656570. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

"They have already thrown away their chicken": barriers affecting participation by HIV-infected women in care and treatment programs for their infants in Blantyre, Malawi.

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Department of Health Education & Behavior, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill, USA.


HIV-infected infants and young children are at high risk of serious illness and death. Morbidity and mortality can be greatly reduced through early infant diagnosis (EID) of HIV and timely initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Despite global efforts to scale-up of EID and infant ART, uptake of these services in resource poor, high HIV burden countries remain low. We conducted a qualitative study of 59 HIV-infected women to identify and explore barriers women face in accessing HIV testing and care for their infants. To capture different perspectives, we included mothers whose infants were known positive (n=9) or known negative (n=14), mothers of infants with unknown HIV status (n=13), and pregnant HIV-infected women (n=20). Five important themes emerged: lack of knowledge regarding EID and infant ART, the perception of health care workers as authority figures, fear of disclosure of own and/or child's HIV status, lack of psychosocial support, and intent to shorten the life of the child. A complex array of cultural, economic, and psychosocial factors creates barriers for HIV-infected women to participate in early infant HIV testing and care programs. For optimal impact of EID and infant ART, reasons for poor uptake should be better understood and addressed in a culturally sensitive manner.

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