Identifying barriers to ART initiation and adherence: An exploratory qualitative study on PMTCT in Zambia

Academic Article


  • Background Though antiretroviral therapy (ART) is widely available, HIV positive pregnant women in Zambia are less likely to start and remain on therapy throughout pregnancy and after delivery. This study sought to understand readiness to start ART among HIV pregnant women from the perspectives of both women and men in order to suggest more holistic programs to support women to continue life-long ART after delivery. Methods We conducted a qualitative study with HIV positive pregnant women before and after ART initiation, and men with female partners, to understand readiness to start lifelong ART. We conducted 28 in-depth interviews among women and 2 focus group discussions among male partners. Data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed in NVivo 12 using thematic analysis. Emerging themes from the data were organized using the social ecological framework. Results Men thought of their female partners as young and needing their supervision to initiate and stay on ART. Women agreed that disclosure and partner support were necessary preconditions to ART initiation and adherence and, expressed fear of divorce as a prominent barrier to disclosure. Maternal love and desire to look after one’s children instilled a sense of responsibility among women which motivated them to overcome individual, interpersonal and health system level barriers to initiation and adherence. Women preferred adherence strategies that were discrete, the effectiveness of which, depended on women’s intrinsic motivation. Conclusion The results support current policies in Zambia to encourage male engagement in ART care. To appeal to male partners, messaging on ART should be centered on emphasizing the importance of male involvement to ensure women remain engaged in ART care. Programs aimed at supporting postpartum ART adherence should design messages that appeal to both men’s role in couples’ joint decision-making and women’s maternal love as motivators for adherence.
  • Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 28358701
  • Author List

  • Kanguya T; Koyuncu A; Sharma A; Kusanathan T; Mubanga M; Chi BH; Vinikoor MJ; Mubiana-Mbewe M
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 1 January 2022