The landscape for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis during pregnancy and breastfeeding in Malawi and Zambia: A qualitative study

PLoS One. 2019 Oct 4;14(10):e0223487. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223487. eCollection 2019.


High HIV incidence rates have been observed among pregnant and breastfeeding women in sub-Saharan Africa. Oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can effectively reduce HIV acquisition in women during these periods; however, understanding of its acceptability and feasibility in antenatal and postpartum populations remains limited. To address this gap, we conducted in-depth interviews with 90 study participants in Malawi and Zambia: 39 HIV-negative pregnant/breastfeeding women, 14 male partners, 19 healthcare workers, and 18 policymakers. Inductive and deductive approaches were used to identify themes related to PrEP. As a public health intervention, PrEP was not well-known among patients and healthcare workers; however, when it was described to participants, most expressed positive views. Concerns about safety and adherence were raised, highlighting two critical areas for community outreach. The feasibility of introducing PrEP into antenatal services was also a concern, especially if introduced within already strained health systems. Support for PrEP varied among policymakers in Malawi and Zambia, reflecting the ongoing policy discussions in their respective countries. Implementing PrEP during the pregnancy and breastfeeding periods will require addressing barriers at the individual, facility, and policy levels. Multi- level approaches should be considered in the design of new PrEP programs for antenatal and postpartum populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult
  • Zambia / epidemiology


  • Anti-HIV Agents