The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
IEE carried out the research and drafted the manuscript. RC participated in the design of the study and critically reviewed the manuscript. HWB participated in the sequence alignment and provided the final review for the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Access to antenatal HIV testing during pregnancy and the level of uptake of services for Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) in Sudan are very low. This study aimed to obtain insights into the perceptions of Sudanese pregnant women toward HIV/AIDS and the use of PMTCT services.
Ten focus group discussions (FGDs) with women of reproductive age were conducted at community settings in Khartoum (N = 121). Recruitment eligibility included living near or around a PMTCT site and being in the age range of 18–40 years. Out of 121 women who participated, 72 (61 %) were pregnant. Predefined themes were addressed in the theory-based interview scheme, which was derived from multiple socio-cognitive theories—i.e., the Extended Parallel Process Model, the Reasoned Action Approach and the socio-psychological view on stigma. Emerging themes were incorporated during data analysis.
Few women knew about the Mother to child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. No one indicated that MTCT might occur during labor. Most women believed that HIV/AIDS is a serious and fatal condition for them and also for their children. They believed they were susceptible to HIV/AIDS as a result of cesarean section, contaminated items (blood and sharp items) and husband infidelity. The usefulness and advantages of HIV testing were questioned; for some women it was perceived as an additional burden of anxiety and worry. Doctors were the most influential with regard to acceptance of HIV testing. The speed of the testing process and confidentiality were mentioned by some women as key factors affecting willingness to undergo HIV testing at a health facility during pregnancy.
The study reveals that most of the women felt susceptible to HIV infection with perceived high severity; however, this perception has not translated into positive attitudes toward the importance of HIV testing during pregnancy. Because of anticipated stigma, women are not likely to disclose their HIV status. Further research should focus on gaining a more in-depth understanding of the psycho-social determinants and processes underlying the factors identified above. In addition, the adequate implementation of Provider Initiated Testing and Counseling (PITC) should be critically assessed in future research about PMTCT in Sudan.