In 2013, the World Health Organization released a new set of guidelines widely known as Option B+. Prior to that there were guidelines released in 2010. Option B+ recommends lifelong antiretroviral treatment for all pregnant and breastfeeding women living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The study aimed at investigating challenges and opportunities in implementing Infant and Young Child Feeding in the context of Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) guidelines among HIV positive mothers of children aged 0–24 months. The study also examined implications presented by implementing the 2013 PMTCT consolidated guidelines in the transition phase from the 2010 approach in Zambia.
A mixed methods approach was employed in the descriptive cross sectional study utilizing semi structured questionnaires and Focused Group Discussions. Further, data was captured from the Health Information Management System.
During the PMTCT transition, associated needs and challenges in institutionalizing the enhanced guidelines from option A and B to option B+ were observed. Nonetheless, there was a decline in Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV rates with an average of 4%. Mothers faced challenges in complying with optimal breastfeeding practices owing to lack of community support systems and breast infections due to poor breast feeding occasioned by infants’ oral health challenges. Moreover, some mothers were hesitant of lifelong ARVs. Health workers faced programmatic and operational challenges such as compromised counseling services.
Despite the ambitious timelines for PMTCT transition, the need to inculcate new knowledge and vary known practice among mothers and the shift in counseling content for health workers, the consolidated guidelines for PMTCT proved effective. Some mothers were hesitant of lifelong ARVs, rationalizing the debated paradigm that prolonged chemotherapy/polypharmacy may be a future challenge in the success of ART in PMTCT. Conflicting breast feeding practices was a common observation across mothers thus underpinning the need to strongly invigorate Infant and Young Child Feeding information sharing across the continuum of heath care from facility level to community and up to the family; for cultural norms, practices and attitudes enshrined within communities play a vital role in child care.