Improving Men’s Participation in Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV as a Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health Priority in South Africa

The World Health Organization promotes a four-component strategy for preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV: prevent new infections in women; prevent unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV infection; prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their children during pregnancy and breastfeeding; and identify, treat, and support women living with HIV, their children, and their families.

Historically, PMTCT services have been directed primarily at women. Ignoring men’s influence on reproductive health has probably limited both the reach and the effectiveness of these services. Strategies to increase male partner involvement (MPI) in PMTCT programmes are aimed at improving programme results and allowing programmes to reach more clients. Recruiting men as supportive partners in PMTCT can improve the health of women and children, better engage men in their own health, improve the communication of couples, and in- crease the participation of fathers in child health through increased proximity to the health system and to the child. For these reasons, MPI has been advanced as a priority intervention in PMTCT programmes. This article looks at the evidence of MPI, as well as the current and proposed policy dimensions of MPI in South Africa.