Impact of the Family Support Group Initiative on the Lives of Hiv Positive Mothers in Kalangala District
Author: KIZITO HENRY
Supervisor: Lillian Nantume Wampande
Family Support Groups are meant to be a behavioral support initiative for HIV positive mothers in a way that the mothers can encourage but also be encouraged by their peers in matters of seeking health services like antenatal care, delivering at health units, adhering to treatment, giving partner support among others which practices are likely to improve and promote health outcomes of HIV positive mothers (MOH, 2011). This study assessed the impact of facility based family group initiatives on the lives of HIV positive mothers attending EMTCT programme in Kalangala district. A convergent mixed method research design using both qualitative and quantities methods was employed to answer the research questions. There were no initial estimates for FSG coverage before the study but the study reached 269 HIV positive mothers and their partners in the EMTCT program. Only 155 had ever heard of FSGs of which 99 had ever attended a session. This study found that FSGs offer meaningful peer to peer engagement amongst HIV positive mothers which ultimately improves their antenatal care attendance. Antenatal care attendance provided an opportunity for the mother to test for HIV but being part of the FSG enhanced the motherís confidence about own status and fostered disclosure to her partner. The study also found that male partners were a strong pillar in providing support in terms of transport, food and adherence support to their HIV positive partners. Additionally, men who participated in FSGs were found to be champions and peer educators despite their busy fishing schedules. This meant that social support avenues hinged on social learning and practice can go a long way in improving not only individual but group health needs. Despite the free additional benefits FSG provide, this study found that there was generally low attendance especially for the newly identified and enrolled HIV positive pregnant mothers. This was attributed to fear of being stigmatized as an FSG group associate.
This study suggested strengthened counselling during HIV positive mother initiation into EMTCT program. It would be further valuable to integrate the recommended FSG package with other health promotion initiatives within EMTCT. This study has documented the current FSG best practices which can be adopted for continuous learning to ensure that peer avenues of information sharing are exploited for improved HIV prevention outcomes.