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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Participation of traditional birth attendants in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services in two rural districts in Zimbabwe: a feasibility study

Freddy Perez1*, Khin Devi Aung1, Theresa Ndoro2, Barbara Engelsmann2 and François Dabis1

Author Affiliations

1 Institut de Santé Publique, d'Epidémiologie et de Développement (ISPED), Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, France

2 Organization for Public Health Interventions and Development (OPHID), Harare, Zimbabwe

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:401  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-401

Published: 5 December 2008

Abstract

Background

Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) is among the key HIV prevention strategies in Zimbabwe. A decrease in use of antenatal care (ANC) services with an increase in home deliveries is affecting the coverage of PMTCT interventions in a context of accelerated economic crisis. The main objective was to evaluate acceptability and feasibility of reinforcing the role of traditional birth attendants (TBAs) in family and child health services through their participation in PMTCT programmes in Zimbabwe.

Methods

A community based cross-sectional survey was undertaken using multistage cluster sampling in two rural districts through interviews and focus group discussions among women who delivered at home with a TBA, those who had an institutional delivery and TBAs.

Results

45% of TBAs interviewed knew the principles of PMTCT and 8% delivered a woman with known HIV-positive status in previous year. Of the complete package of PMTCT services, more than 75% of TBAs agreed to participate in most activities with the exception of performing a blood test (17%), accompanying new-borns to closest health centre to receive medication (15%) and assisting health centres in documentation of the link ANC-PMTCT services (18%). Women who delivered at home were less likely to have received more than one ANC service or have had contact with a health centre compared to women who delivered in a health centre (91.0% vs 72.6%; P < 0.001). Also, 63.6% of the women who delivered in a health centre had the opportunity to choose the place of delivery compared to 39.4% of women who delivered at home (P < 0.001). More than 85% of women agreed that TBAs could participate in all activities related to a PMTCT programme with the exception of performing a blood test for HIV. Concerns were highlighted regarding confidentiality of the HIV-serostatus of women.

Conclusion

Although the long-term goal of ANC service delivery in Zimbabwe remains the provision of skilled delivery attendance, PMTCT programmes will benefit from complementary approaches to prevent missed opportunities. TBAs are willing to expand their scope of work regarding activities related to PMTCT. There is a need to reinforce their knowledge on MTCT prevention measures and better integrate them into the health system.