Male involvement is key to increasing uptake of Family Planning by people living with HIV, a study done in Uganda has indicated.
It discovered that men were still very influential in their partners’ decision making about use of contraception. It is one of the biggest reasons for the low uptake of family planning services among women living with HIV even when they know that pregnancy weakens them and many were having un planned pregnancies. It pointed out that opportunities to promote family planning to male HIV care and treatment are being missed.
This was one of the several findings of the study on integration of Family Planning in HIV care done by PACE, a non- government organization dealing with reproductive health. PACE is an acronym for the Programme for Accessible health communication and Education.
The findings were disseminated at the ongoing International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Addis Ababa, by PACE’s Deputy Director Sales and Marketing, Goretti Masadde.
She stated that the study pointed out that male peer education on a positive living lifestyle which involves Family Planning should be prioritized. This will help the other partners of people living with HIV to encourage their partners to take up Family planning.
In the Addis conference, Participants strongly called on governments and other players in the family planning services promotion to involve men it is to succeed.
The background of the PACE study were the findings of yet another one earlier by Sensalire and others for the ministry of Health that, due to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), the lives and functional status of HIV- positive individuals improved that their sexual desires that had been inhibited by illness get revived. That, the HIV positive women and couples have broad reproductive health needs that are not always met within the HIV services.
As a result, the Ministry of Health had decided that there was need to link Family Planning services and HIV care. Family Planning was to be incorporated into the basic care package to provide the people living with HIV with a one- stop- centre for their reproductive health needs. The basic care package is supported by the Ministry of Health and the integration of Family Planning in it was by the Government.
According to health workers, in addition to reducing unwanted pregnancies, the implication of family planning is reduction of chances that an HIV positive mother could pass the virus to their infant.
Last year, during the 2012 World AIDS Day, the Uganda Health Marketing Group revealed that without intervention, about one third of HIV positive mothers in Uganda were passing the killer virus to their new babies. This UHMG stated was resulting into 25,000 children born with HIV every year in Uganda.
The Ministry of Health has also pointed out that many Ugandans are unaware that HIV positive mothers can pass the virus on to their new babies. It indicated that the chances of passing the virus on to the baby during pregnancy stand at 15% to 20%, during labour chances are 60% to 70% and after delivery during breast feeding the chances are 15% to 20%.
The PACE study also pointed out that there are other issues that are impeding uptake of family planning by women living with HIV. Among them, it pointed out, many of the HIV positive women hold religious beliefs that negatively influence their utilization of family planning services; others fear that they may get side effects with much of the suspicion being on hormonal methods.
Other impediments, according to the study are: difficulty in getting couples to attend clinic together which impedes decision making; lack of trained personnel who offer long term Family Planning and frequent stock outs of Family Planning Commodities.