Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that HIV-infected women practice exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for the first 6 months postpartum to reduce HIV transmission. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of HIV/AIDS knowledge and other psychosocial factors on EBF practice among pregnant and postpartum women in rural Nyanza, Kenya, an area with a high prevalence of HIV.
Methods: Data on baseline characteristics and knowledge during pregnancy, as well as infant feeding practices 4-8 weeks after the birth were obtained from 281 pregnant women recruited from nine antenatal clinics. Factors examined included: fear of HIV/AIDS stigma, male partner reactions, lack of disclosure to family members, knowledge of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and mental health. In the analysis, comparisons were made using chi-squared and t-test methods as well as logistic multivariate regression models.
Results: There were high levels of anticipated stigma 171(61.2%), intimate partner violence 57(20.4%) and postpartum depression 29(10.1%) and low levels of disclosure among HIV positive women 30(31.3%). The most significant factors determining EBF practice were hospital delivery (aOR = 2.1 95% CI 1.14-3.95) HIV positive serostatus (aOR 2.5 95% CI 1.23-5.27), and disclosure of HIV-positive serostatus (aOR 2.9 95% CI 1.31-6.79). Postpartum depression and PMTCT knowledge were not associated with EBF (aOR 1.1 95% CI 0.47-2.62 and aOR 1.2 95% CI 0.64-2.24) respectively.
Conclusions: Health care workers and counselors need to receive support in order to improve skills required for diagnosing, monitoring and managing psychosocial aspects of the care of pregnant and HIV positive women including facilitating disclosure to male partners in order to improve both maternal and child health outcomes.