Durban – Babies are less likely to be born with HIV if the father accompanies the mother to antenatal care.

Speaking at the 8th National Aids Conference this week, Dr Simukai Shamu of the Foundation for Professional Development said that a study in Nkangala district in Mpumalanga showed that male partners do not accompany their partners to the clinic, especially during pregnancy.

This was unfortunate because male involvement in antenatal care could play a big role in the prevention of HIV from mother to child.

“If both partners attend antenatal care they can encourage each other to go on the program to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child,” he said, adding that a male partner’s involvement was also believed to be key to the mother adhering to antiretroviral therapy.

The Nkangala district is mainly Ndebele and their culture does not allow men to be close to their women during birth. This ban was extended to men’s presence during antenatal care.

“The other problem we found is that the antenatal clinics are not male friendly,” he said

The study also showed that women were unlikely to go for couple counselling.

“This may be because they are no longer in the relationship or because they want to hide their HIV status,” he said.

He said that the health department, together with communities and traditional leaders, should come up with a solution that would encourage male participation.

“Interventions should make antenatal care male-friendly, emphasise the development of parenting skills, raise the perception that antenatal care is not a woman’s activity but is about promoting family health, and provide comprehensive incentives for male partner attendance, including integrated health services for men,” he said.

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