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Despite an increased uptake of option B+ treatment among HIV- positive pregnant and breastfeeding women, retaining these women in care is still a major challenge. Previous studies have identified factors associated with loss to follow-up (LTFU) in HIV care, however, the perspectives from HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women regarding their LTFU in option B+ needs further exploration. We explored reasons for LTFU and motivation to resume treatment among HIV-positive women initiated in option B+ in an Urban setting.
A descriptive qualitative study was conducted at three public care and treatment clinics (CTC) (Buguruni health center, Sinza hospital, and Mbagala Rangitatu health center) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania between February and May 2017. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women who were lost to follow up in the option B+ regimen. Analysis of data followed content analysis that was performed using NVivo 10 computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software.
Eleven women were lost to follow-up and did not resume Option B+, while 19 had resumed treatment. The study indicated a struggle with long term disease amongst HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women initiated in option B+ treatment. The reported reasons contributing to LTFU among these women appeared in three categories. The contribution of LTFU in the first category namely health-related factors included medication side effects and lack of disease symptoms. The second category highlighted the contribution of psychological factors such as loss of hope, fear of medication side effects and HIV-related stigma. The third category underscored the influence of socio-economic statuses such as financial constraints, lack of partner support, family conflicts, non-disclosure of HIV-positive status, and religious beliefs. Motivators to resume treatment after LTFU included support from health care providers and family members, a desire to protect the unborn child from HIV-infection and a need to maintain a healthy status.
The study has highlighted the reasons for LTFU and motivation to resume treatment among women initiated in Option B+. Our results provide further evidence on the need for future interventions to focus on these factors in order to improve retention in life-long treatment.