How do women and frontline health workers engage in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) in urban areas of Vietnam and Indonesia, where HIV is highly stigmatized and is associated with injecting drug use and sex work? This qualitative study explores local dynamics of care, using a mix of observations, focus group discussions, and interviews.
In Indonesia the study was conducted in a community-based PMTCT program run by an NGO, while in Vietnam the study explored the care dynamics in routine PMTCT services, implemented by district and provincial public health facilities. In both of these PMTCT arrangements (the routine provider initiated approach in Vietnam and a more client-oriented system in Indonesia), pregnant women value the provision of HIV tests in antenatal care (ANC). Concerns are raised, however, by the unhappy few who test positive. These women are unsatisfied with the quality of counselling, and the failure to provide antiretroviral treatments. Acceptability of HIV testing in ANC is high, but the key policy issue from the perspective of pregnant women is whether the PMTCT services can provide good quality counselling and the necessary follow-up care.
We find local level providers of PMTCT are pleased with the PMTCT program. In Vietnam, the PMTCT program offers health workers protection against HIV, since they can refer women away from the district health service for delivery. In Indonesia, community cadres are pleased with the financial incentives gained by mobilizing clients for the program. We conclude that achieving the global aims of reducing HIV infections in children by 50% requires a tailoring of globally designed public health programs to context-specific gendered transmission pathways of HIV, as well as local opportunities for follow-up care and social support.