BACKGROUND: The 'Primary HIV Prevention among Pregnant and Lactating Ugandan Women' (PRIMAL) randomized controlled trial aimed to assess an enhanced counseling strategy linked to extended postpartum repeat HIV testing and enhanced counseling among 820 HIV-negative pregnant and lactating women aged 18-49 years and 410 of their male partners to address the first pillar of the WHO Global Strategy for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV transmission (PMTCT). This paper presents findings of qualitative studies aimed at evaluating participants' and service providers' perceptions on the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention and at understanding the effects of the intervention on risk reduction, couple communication, and emotional support from women's partners. METHODS: PRIMAL Study participants were enrolled from two antenatal care clinics and randomized 1:1 to an intervention or control arm. Both arms received repeat sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV testing at enrolment, labor and delivery, and at 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months postpartum. The intervention consisted of enhanced quarterly counseling on HIV risk reduction, couple communication, family planning and nutrition delivered by study counselors through up to 24 months post-partum. Control participants received repeat standard post-test counseling. Qualitative data were collected from intervention women participants, counsellors and midwives at baseline, midline and end of the study through 18 focus group discussions and 44 key informant interviews. Data analysis followed a thematic approach using framework analysis and a matrix-based system for organizing, reducing, and synthesizing data. RESULTS: At baseline, FGD participants mentioned multiple sexual partners and lack of condom use as the main risks for pregnant and lactating women to acquire HIV. The main reasons for having multiple sexual partners were 1) the cultural practice not to have sex in the late pre-natal and early post-natal period; 2) increased sexual desire during pregnancy; 3) alcohol abuse; 4) poverty; and 5) conflict in couples. Consistent condom use at baseline was limited due to lack of knowledge and low acceptance of condom use in couples. The majority of intervention participants enrolled as couples felt enhanced counselling improved understanding, faithfulness, mutual support and appreciation within their couple. Another benefit mentioned by participants was improvement of couple communication and negotiation, as well as daily decision-making around sexual needs, family planning and condom use. Participants stressed the importance of providing counselling services to all couples. CONCLUSION: This study shows that enhanced individual and couple counselling linked to extended repeat HIV and STI testing and focusing on HIV prevention, couple communication, family planning and nutrition is a feasible and acceptable intervention that could enhance risk reduction programs among pregnant and lactating women. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov registration number NCT01882998, date of registration 21st June 2013.
- Repeat testing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health