Why Do Marital Partners of People Living with HIV Not Test for HIV? A Qualitative Study in Lusaka, Zambia

November 2016 - Structural Prevention

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Musheke, M., Merten, S., and Bond, V. BMC Public Health (2016) 16:882, doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3396-z.

This qualitative study examined barriers to HIV testing for marriage partners of an HIV-positive person. The authors conducted interviews with 30 HIV-negative partners who refused testing and 10 health care providers and held a focus group discussion with 8 HIV counselors. The results showed that some partners identified self-perceived wellness as a reason not to test, although others voiced assumptions that they were already HIV-positive, given their partner’s status. Men discussed their fear of emasculation due to illness and medication, although they often took natural or traditional supplements to address symptoms of opportunistic infection. Both men and women avoided HIV testing out of concern that their partner would view a positive diagnosis as proof of infidelity. They also expressed concerns about the impact of HIV on their mental health and their lack of confidence in their ability to adhere to treatment. Many cited the misconception that antiretroviral treatment causes illness or death, and said that they preferred herbal and traditional medicine and faith healing. The authors concluded that increasing awareness of serodiscordant relationships and providing education on treatment and the benefits of HIV testing (despite feelings of wellness) could decrease barriers to testing among partners of seropositive persons.

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