Encouraging HIV-infected pregnant women to recruit male partners for couple HIV testing and counselling (CHTC) is promoted by the World Health Organization, but remains challenging. Formal strategies for recruiting the male partners of pregnant women have not been explored within an Option B+ programme. Our objective was to learn about experiences surrounding CHTC recruitment within a formal CHTC recruitment study. A randomised controlled trial comparing two CHTC recruitment strategies was conducted among HIV-infected pregnant women presenting to Bwaila Antenatal Unit in 2014. Women were randomised to receive an invitation to attend the clinic as a couple or this invitation plus clinic-led phone and community tracing. A qualitative study was conducted with a subset of participants to learn about recruitment. This paper describes experiences of a subset of HIV-infected pregnant women (N = 20) and male partners (N = 17). One on one in-depth interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, translated, and coded using content analysis. Nearly all women presented the invitation and disclosed their HIV-positive status to their partners on the day of HIV diagnosis, often to facilitate pill-taking. Men and women in both arms perceived the messages to be more compelling since they came from the clinic, rather than the woman herself. Couples who attended CHTC displayed greater care for one another and mutual support for HIV-related behaviours. Facilitating CHTC with invitations and tracing can support CHTC uptake and support for HIV-affected couples. In an Option B+ context, inviting partners for CHTC can facilitate male involvement and have important benefits for families.
Keywords: AIDS; behaviour change; disclosure; mother to child transmission; prevention.