Article

The feasibility of voluntary counselling and HIV testing for pregnant women using community volunteers in Zimbabwe

Department of Pediatrics , Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States
International Journal of STD & AIDS (Impact Factor: 1.04). 12/2005; 16(11):755-9. DOI: 10.1258/095646205774763090
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The purpose of this pilot project was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of voluntary counselling and HIV testing (VCT) by pregnant women using community volunteers in Zimbabwe to prevent mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. From July 1999 to June 2001, a short-course zidovudine (ZDV)-based perinatal HIV prevention programme was initiated in two antenatal clinics. Community volunteers, recruited from local community organizations, underwent a two-week training course in VCT, which included HIV/AIDS facts, systematic counselling approach, and practical counselling techniques using scripts and role-play. Rapid HIV testing was performed after informed consent. Lay counsellors conducted individual pre- and post-test counselling for HIV. A total of 35 women community volunteers were trained in VCT; 34 graduated and committed to work four hours per week in the clinic. Of the 6051 pregnant women presenting for antenatal clinics (ANC), 1824 (30%) underwent pre-test counselling and 1547 (26%) were tested, and 429 (28%) were HIV infected. Overall, 1283 (83%) returned for their test results including 406 (95%) of HIV-infected women. Of the 406 HIV-infected women who collected their test results, only 203 (50%) opted for ZDV prophylaxis to prevent MTCT of HIV. Over the two-year study period, two counsellors died and three sought employment at other organizations. Adherence to duty roster was 97% and no breach of confidentiality was reported. Despite many challenges, VCT delivered by community volunteers is feasible and acceptable for pregnant women aiming to reduce their risk of transmitting HIV to their infants. This programme is being implemented at several urban and rural MTCT sites in Zimbabwe and can serve as a model for other resource-poor countries.

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