Challenges to delivering quality care in a prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programme in Soweto, South Africa

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Southern African Journal of Hiv Medicine

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Objectives: There has been little focus on quality of care provided in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services in South Africa. We assessed quality of care in PMTCT services in Soweto, South Africa, focusing on knowledge and experiences of healthcare workers and HIV-infected pregnant women accessing the services. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted between November and December 2009. A total of 201 HIV-infected pregnant women and 80 healthcare workers, from 10 antenatal clinics, were interviewed using standardised questionnaires. Results: The median gestational age at first antenatal visit was 20 weeks and 32 weeks at the time of the interview. The majority of the women, 71.5%, discovered that they were HIV-infected in the index pregnancy, and 87.9% disclosed their HIV status. Overall, 97.5% received counselling and 33.5% were members of a support group. Knowledge of antenatal and intrapartum PMTCT interventions was correct in 62.7% and 43.3% of the women, respectively. Support group membership and current use of antiretroviral prophylaxis did not impact on the quality of knowledge. Of the healthcare workers, 43.8% were professional nurses and 37.5% were lay counsellors. The majority, 80.0%, felt satisfied with their knowledge of PMTCT guidelines and 96.3% felt competent in managing HIV-infected pregnant women. Yet, there were important deficiencies in knowledge of the guidelines. Conclusion: In our study, knowledge of PMTCT interventions was low in both clients and healthcare workers. These findings point to a need to improve quality of care in PMTCT services, especially with increasingly complex PMTCT interventions recommended by international policies.