Knowledge and perceptions of antenatal women towards prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS in Blantyre, Malawi
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Objectives: To determine antenatal attendees’ knowledge and perceptions towards selected aspects of prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Setting: Five rural and six urban public health centers in Blantyre District, Malawi. Subjects: 126 consecutive pregnant women attending antenatal clinics. Design: Cross sectional qualitative study utilizing focus group discussions (FGDs). Analysis was based on content analysis. Results: Knowledge about HIV/AIDS especially regarding causative agents of AIDS, transmission and prevention was generally high in all FGDs. One individual though, suggested that HIV was transmitted by mosquito bites and another that HIV was transmitted by being exposed to persistent coughing. The majority of 126 women identified HIV testing of pregnant women as of potential benefit and necessary for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. In most cases, the benefit mentioned for HIV testing was that it was good to know about one ’ s HIV status rather than being ignorant. Other suggested benefits of HIV testing of pregnant women were: future family planning, as an incentive to reduce the number of sexual partners and to know the cause of the problem in case a child is failing to thrive rather than blame witchcraft. Male spouses were identified as both potential supporters and limiting agents towards pregnant women’s acceptability of HIV testing. Conclusion: HIV testing among pregnant women to ensure prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV is a complex issue. Women consider various factors before making decisions. Programme planners and implementing agencies need to be aware of these issues and work together with women and other stakeholders in order to overcome such limitations.