Challenges faced by health-care providers offering infant-feeding counseling to HIV-positive women in sub-Saharan Africa: a review of current research.AIDS Care 2015; 27(1):17-24AC
Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) has been identified as the optimal nutrition and critical behavior in attaining human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-free infant survival in resource-limited settings. Health-care providers (HCPs) in clinic- and community-settings throughout sub-Saharan Africa (sSA) provide infant-feeding counseling. However, rates of EBF at 6 months of age are suboptimal. HCPs are uniquely positioned to educate HIV-positive mothers and provide support by addressing known barriers to EBF. However, limited evidence exists on the experiences faced by HCPs in providing counseling on infant feeding to HIV-positive women. Our objective is to describe experiences faced by HCPs when delivering infant-feeding counseling in the context of HIV in program settings in sSA. We searched a range of electronic databases, including PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO from January 1990 to February 2013, in addition to hand-searching, cross-reference searching, and personal communications. The search was limited to publications in English. Empirical studies of HCP experiences providing infant-feeding counseling in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programs in sSA were selected. We identified 10 peer-reviewed articles reporting HCP challenges in infant-feeding counseling that met inclusion criteria. Articles included qualitative, cross-sectional and mixed-method studies, and cumulatively reported 31 challenges faced by HCPs. Among the challenges identified, the most commonly reported were personal beliefs held by the HCPs toward infant feeding in the context of HIV, contradictory messages, staff workload, directive counseling styles, and a lack of practical strategies to offer mothers, often leading to improvised counseling approaches. Counseling strategies need to be developed that are relevant, meaningful, and responsive to the needs of both HCPs and mothers.