Objective: To determine the impact of HIV counseling and testing among child-bearing women.
Study setting: Mama Yemo Hospital in Kinshasa, Zaïre.
Participants and interventions: After informed consent, 187 HIV-seropositive and 177 HIV-seronegative child-bearing women received pre- and post-test counseling for HIV infection.
Main outcome measures: Participant knowledge of HIV/AIDS and plans for notifying partners of serologic status and contraceptive use at the time of counseling, and actual partner involvement and contraception use 12 months later.
Results: During pre-test counseling, participant knowledge of HIV infection was high, although 30% of women were unaware of perinatal HIV transmission, and 50% did not know that HIV infection could be asymptomatic. At post-test counseling, 70% of mothers (47% of HIV-seropositive, 94% of HIV-seronegative) intended to notify their partners and have joint counseling and testing, although after 12 months, only 2.2% of all women and 7.9% of those who desired assistance to notify their partner returned with their partners for joint counseling and testing. Similarly, 86% planned to use birth control (61% condoms), with HIV-seropositive women more likely to prefer condoms than HIV-seronegative women (71 versus 53%; P < 0.001). After 12-months, however, only 20% of HIV-seropositive women reported condom use, and the frequency of pregnancy in both groups was approximately equal.
Conclusions: HIV counseling and testing led to higher rates of contraceptive and condom use, although the actual level was lower than the intended use. To further reduce the risk of heterosexual and perinatal HIV transmission in families with an HIV-infected woman, counseling should also include their male partners.