''Ask the way from those who have walked it before"-Grandmothers' roles in health-related decision making and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis use among pregnant and breastfeeding women in sub-Saharan Africa

PLoS One. 2022 Sep 1;17(9):e0271684. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271684. eCollection 2022.


HIV acquisition among pregnant and breastfeeding women in sub-Saharan Africa and vertical transmission rates remain high despite established strategies for HIV prevention. During the MTN-041/MAMMA study, we explored the influence of grandmothers (mothers and mothers-in-law of pregnant and breastfeeding women) in eastern and southern Africa on the health-related decisions of pregnant and breastfeeding women and their potential to support use of HIV prevention products. To do this we used structured questionnaires and focus group discussions with three stakeholder groups: 1) grandmothers, 2) HIV-uninfected currently or recently pregnant or breastfeeding women and 3) male partners of currently or recently pregnant or breastfeeding women. A total of 23 focus group discussions comprising 68 grandmothers, 65 pregnant or breastfeeding women and 63 male partners were completed across four study sites. Grandmothers were described as important sources of information during pregnancy and breastfeeding playing both supportive and influencer roles due to personal maternal experience and generational knowledge. While pregnant and breastfeeding women were not keen to involve grandmothers in HIV prevention decision making, they were accepting of grandmothers' involvement in a supportive role. Grandmothers expressed willingness to support pre-exposure prophylaxis use and agreed with the other two stakeholder groups that this decision should be made by women themselves or together with partners. These novel data indicate potential for grandmothers' health related supportive roles to be extended to support decision-making and adherence to biomedical HIV prevention options, and possibly contribute to the decline in HIV acquisition among pregnant and breastfeeding women in these communities.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Breast Feeding
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Grandparents*
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis*
  • Pregnancy