Introduction: Men's role in HIV prevention is pivotal to changing the course of the epidemic. When men participate in Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs, their knowledge of HIV increases, their behavior becomes supportive, and their receptiveness to HIV testing increases. In Cameroon, Africa, multiple efforts have been implemented that encourage men to “follow” their wives to obstetric/PMTCT care and to undergo HIV testing. However, only 18% of men have participated in this care.
Methods: As a quality improvement initiative, a survey was administered to identify men's knowledge and attitudes regarding antenatal care (ANC), PMTCT, and HIV. The survey consisted of a questionnaire with an emphasis on identifying barriers to men's participation in PMTCT programs and obtaining HIV testing. A convenience sampling method was used, and no participant identifying information was collected.
Results: Men's participation in ANC/PMTCT is affected by sociocultural barriers centered in tribal beliefs and traditional gender roles. The barriers identified included the belief that pregnancy is a “woman's affair”; the belief that a man's role is primarily to provide financial support for the woman's care; the man's perception that he will be viewed as jealous by the community if he comes to clinic with his pregnant wife; and cultural gender-based patterns of communication.
Discussion: Most men consider accompanying their wife to ANC/PMTCT a good practice. Yet fewer men actually do this, because they feel that the provision of finance for ANC registration and delivery fees is their most important role in supporting their wife's pregnancy. Health care workers should encourage individuals and community leaders to build upon the traditional value of financial responsibility, expanding a man's involvement to include supportive social roles in obstetric care, PMTCT, and HIV testing.
J Midwifery Womens Health 2010;55:363–369