Background The northwestern province of Cameroon has the highest rate of HIV infection in the country with 8.7% of adults infected. An estimated 20-30% of women between the ages of 15 and 30 are infected. The high rate of HIV among women of childbearing age makes mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV a major concern. The goal of the research was to explore conceptions of MTCT of HIV among women in the context of differing access to HIV testing during pregnancy.
Study Design and Methods 62 semi-structured, open-ended interviews with Nso women from 9 villages in the northwest province. The villages were grouped based on access to HIV testing during pregnancy: high access (N = 23), medium access (N = 21), low access (N = 18). All of the interviews were conducted with a local interpreter and each of the participants was asked to respond freely to questions about their knowledge and beliefs about MTCT of HIV. Data were recorded by hand during the interview by the author.
Results Women from all access groups stressed the importance of antenatal care mainly to check the position of the baby in the womb. All women said they would be willing to take an HIV test and receive the results during pregnancy, but very few said they would pay extra money or travel extra distance just for an HIV test. Knowledge about MTCT of HIV was high in all groups. Witchcraft was almost always simultaneously cited as a way for infants to acquire HIV and was not correlated to a low level of awareness of or knowledge about MCTC of HIV.
Conclusions Despite high awareness of and knowledge about MTCT of HIV and high perceived importance of antenatal care, perceived importance of HIV testing during pregnancy was low, indicating that including HIV testing in the cost of antenatal care at rural health centers would be an effective way to increase the amount of women getting tested for HIV during pregnancy.
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