'I fear my partner will abandon me': the intersection of late initiation of antenatal care in pregnancy and poor ART adherence among women living with HIV in South Africa and Uganda

Alhassan, Yussif, Twimukye, Adelline, Malaba, Thokozile, Myer, Landon, Waitt, Catriona ORCID: 0000-0003-0134-5855, Lamorde, Mohammed, Colbers, Angela, Reynolds, Helen ORCID: 0000-0001-7443-4520, Khoo, Saye ORCID: 0000-0002-2769-0967 and Taegtmeyer, Miriam
(2022) 'I fear my partner will abandon me': the intersection of late initiation of antenatal care in pregnancy and poor ART adherence among women living with HIV in South Africa and Uganda. BMC PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH, 22 (1). 566-.

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<h4>Background</h4>Many women in sub-Saharan Africa initiate antenatal care (ANC) late in pregnancy, undermining optimal prevention of mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. Questions remain about whether and how late initiation of ANC in pregnancy is related to adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the era of national dolutegravir roll-out.<h4>Methods</h4>This study employed a qualitative design involving individual interviews and focus group discussions conducted between August 2018 and March 2019. We interviewed 37 pregnant and lactating women living with HIV selected purposively for early or late presentation to ANC from poor urban communities in South Africa and Uganda. Additionally, we carried out seven focused group discussions involving 67 participants in both countries. Data were analysed thematically in NVivo12.<h4>Results</h4>Women described common underlying factors influencing both late ANC initiation and poor ART adherence in South Africa and Uganda. These included poverty and time constraints; inadequate health knowledge; perceived low health risk; stigma of HIV in pregnancy; lack of disclosure; and negative provider attitudes. Most late ANC presenters reported relationship problems, lack of autonomy and the limited ability to dialogue with their partners to influence household decisions on health and resource allocation. Perception of poor privacy and confidentiality in maternity clinics was rife among women in both study settings and compounded risks associated with early disclosure of pregnancy and HIV. Women who initiated ANC late and were then diagnosed with HIV appeared to be more susceptible to poor ART adherence. They were often reprimanded by health workers for presenting late which hampered their participation in treatment counselling and festered provider mistrust and subsequent disengagement in care. Positive HIV diagnosis in late pregnancy complicated women's ability to disclose their status to significant others which deprived them of essential social support for treatment adherence. Further, it appeared to adversely affect women's mental health and treatment knowledge and self-efficacy.<h4>Conclusions</h4>We found clear links between late initiation of ANC and the potential for poor adherence to ART based on common structural barriers shaping both health seeking behaviours, and the adverse impact of late HIV diagnosis on women's mental health and treatment knowledge and efficacy. Women who present late are a potential target group for better access to antiretrovirals that are easy to take and decrease viral load rapidly, and counselling support with adherence and partner disclosure. A combination of strengthened health literacy, economic empowerment, improved privacy and patient-provider relationships as well as community interventions that tackle inimical cultural practices on pregnancy and unfair gender norms may be required.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Antenatal care, Antiretroviral therapy, Adherence to antiretroviral therapy, Dolutegravir, Antenatal care initiation, Booking, Women living with HIV, Uganda, South Africa
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2022 07:51
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 20:56
DOI: 10.1186/s12884-022-04896-5
Open Access URL: https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/a...
Related URLs:
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3158590