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Women in couples antenatal HIV counseling and testing are not more likely to report adverse social events

Semrau, Katherinea; Kuhn, Louiseb; Vwalika, Cheswac; Kasonde, Priscad; Sinkala, Mosesc; Kankasa, Chipepod; Shutes, Erine; Aldrovandi, Gracef; Thea, Donald Ma

Epidemiology and Social

Background: Couple counseling has been promoted as a strategy to improve uptake of interventions to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (pMTCT) and to minimize adverse social outcomes associated with disclosure of HIV status.

Objectives: We tested whether women counseled antenatally as part of a couple were more likely to accept HIV testing and nevirapine in a pMTCT program, and whether they would be less likely to experience later adverse social events than women counseled alone.

Methods: A pMTCT program that included active community education and outreach to encourage couple counseling and testing was implemented in two antenatal clinics in Lusaka, Zambia. A subset of HIV-positive women was asked to report their experience of adverse social events 6 months after delivery. Couple-counseled women were compared with individual-counseled women stratified by whether or not they had disclosed their HIV status to their partners.

Results: Nine percent (868) of 9409 women counseled antenatally were counseled with their husband. Couple-counseled women were more likely to accept HIV testing (96%) than women counseled alone (79%); however uptake of nevirapine was not improved. Six months after delivery, 28% of 324 HIV-positive women reported at least one adverse social event (including physical violence, verbal abuse, divorce or separation). There were no significant differences in reported adverse social events between couple- and individual-counseled women.

Conclusions: Couple counseling did not increase the risk of adverse social events associated with HIV disclosure. Support services and interventions to improve social situations for people living with HIV need to be further evaluated.

From the aCenter for International Health and Development at the Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts

bGertrude H. Sergievsky Center, and Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; New York, New York, USA

cLusaka District Health Management Team, Lusaka

dUniversity Teaching Hospital, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

eUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama

fUniversity of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Received 29 March, 2004

Revised 13 October, 2004

Accepted 1 November, 2004

Correspondence to Donald Thea, Center for International Health, Boston University School of Public Health, 85 East Concord Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA. E-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.