This guest blog was written by Smita Baruah. She is the director of government relations for the Global Health Council, the world’s largest membership alliance dedicated to saving lives by improving health throughout the globe.
In this morning’s plenary session on prevention, we learned again about the importance of involving men in all prevention programs, including prevention of mother to child transmission. At conferences such as this one, sessions on PMTCT usually top the list. Most of these sessions generally center around examples of the progress towards reaching the 80% target.
This includes discussions around how to reach pregnant women, ensure that PMTCT programs are integrated with antenatal care services or primary health care and of late, and the importance of integrating family planning services with PMTCT programs. I, at least, had not really paid attention to the critical role men can play in PMTCT programs. This morning, I started paying attention.
It was said this morning that when a baby tests negative for HIV, men often believe they are also HIV negative. It is already often difficult to get men tested, and makes it even harder when they learn that their baby is not HIV positive. Thus we learned about the importance of using PMTCT programs to educate and counsel men.
I have heard a lot about the need for integration of family planning into PMTCT programs or linking PMTCT programs with safe motherhood. How about also including male circumcision? Never thought of that until it was mentioned.
I learned in a PMTCT session following the plenary that male participation is still weak in many PMTCT programs. Unfortunately, the session did not have an in-depth discussion about how best to increase male participation in these programs. But in a post-session discussion with a colleague, he suggested that maybe they need to call them “parent to child transmission” to increase men’s involvement. Just a thought for next year’s sessions on PMTCT.