Background: Women initiating antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy have high rates of dropout, particularly after delivery. We aimed to identify challenges to postpartum retention in care under Option B+, which expands antiretroviral therapy access to all HIV-positive pregnant women regardless of CD4 count.
Methodology: We performed 2 semi-structured interviews (SSI, n = 50) and 1 focus group discussion (n = 8) with HIV-positive women at Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre, a primary care facility in Johannesburg, South Africa, that is one of the only clinics offering Option B+ in South Africa.
Results: Fifty women completed the SSI before delivery, and 48 (96%) completed the second SSI within 3 months of delivery. Median age was 28 years (interquartile range: 26-34); most women worked (62%) or had worked in the previous year (18%). Postpartum women attending HIV care perceived that barriers to HIV care after delivery among other women included the belief that mothers care more about the baby's health than their own (29.2%, 14/48), women were "ignorant" or "irresponsible" (16.7%, 8/48), negative clinic staff treatment (12.5%, 6/48), and denial or lack of disclosure of HIV status (10.4% each, 5/48). Experienced barriers included lack of money (18.0%, 9/50), work conflict (6.0%, 3/50), and negative staff treatment (6.0%, 3/50). During the focus group discussion, 3 main themes emerged: conflict with work commitment, negative treatment from health-care workers, and lack of disclosure related to stigma.
Conclusions: We identified a complex set of interconnected barriers to retaining postpartum women in HIV care under Option B+, including structural, personal, and societal barriers. The importance of postpartum HIV care for the mother's own health must be embraced by health-care workers and public health programs.