Introduction: HIV testing male partners of pregnant and postpartum women can lead to improved health outcomes for women, partners and infants. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, few male partners get HIV tested during their partner's pregnancy in spite of several promising approaches to increase partner testing uptake. We assessed stakeholders' views and preferences of partner notification, home-based testing and secondary distribution of self-test kits to understand whether offering choices for partner HIV testing may increase acceptability.
Methods: Interviewers conducted semi-structured interviews with HIV-negative (N = 39) and HIV-positive (N = 41) pregnant/postpartum women, male partners of HIV-negative (N = 14) and HIV-positive (N = 14) pregnant/postpartum women, healthcare workers (N = 19) and policymakers (N = 16) in Malawi and Zambia. Interviews covered views of each partner testing approach and preferred approaches; healthcare workers were also asked about perceptions of a choice-based approach. Interviews were transcribed, translated and analysed to compare perspectives across country and participant types.
Results: Most participants within each stakeholder group considered all three partner testing strategies acceptable. Relationship conflict was discussed as a potential adverse consequence for each approach. For partner notification, additional barriers included women losing letters, being fearful to give partners letters, being unable to read and men refusing to come to the clinic. For home-based testing, additional barriers included lack of privacy or confidentiality and fear of experiencing community-level HIV stigma. For HIV self-test kits, additional barriers included lack of counselling, false results and poor linkage to care. Preferred male partner testing options varied. Participants preferred partner notification due to their respect for clinical authority, home-based testing due to their desire to prioritize convenience and clinical authority, and self-test kits due to their desire to prioritize confidentiality. Less than half of couples interviewed selected the same preferred male partner testing option as their partner. Most healthcare workers felt the choice-based approach would be acceptable and feasible, but noted implementation challenges in personnel, resources or space.
Conclusions: Most stakeholders considered different approaches to partner HIV testing to be acceptable, but concerns were raised about each. A choice-based approach may allow women to select their preferred method of partner testing; however, implementation challenges need to be addressed.
Keywords: HIV testing; Malawi; Zambia; male partner engagement; prevention of mother-to-child transmission; qualitative research.
© 2019 The Authors. Journal of the International AIDS Society published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of the International AIDS Society.