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Knowledge and attitude towards mother to child transmission of HIV and it's prevention among post natal mothers in Tikur Anbessa and Zewditu Memorial Hospitals, Addis Ababa

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Background: HIV/AIDS is currently a major public health problem in Ethiopia and mother to child transmission (MTCT) is responsible for 90% of childhood HIV infections. The transmission of HIV from infected mothers to babies could occur during antenatal period, as well as during delivery and breastfeeding (postnatal period). Since breastfeeding is essential for child survival, it is also necessary to assess mothers' knowledge and attitude towards HIV transmission and its prevention during breastfeeding. Objectives: This study attempts to assess mothers' knowledge of MTCT of HIV including breastfeeding, in two government hospitals in Addis Ababa. It also describes mothers' attitudes towards voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) services. Methods: A cross sectional, descriptive study was conducted to assess knowledge and attitude towards MTCT and its' preventive methods on postnatal mothers who delivered at Tikur Anbessa and Zewditu Memorial Hospitals, Addis Ababa, from January to March 2004. A structured, pre-tested questionnaire was used for data collection. Results: A total of 384 mothers were interviewed 78.4% of whom were from Addis Ababa. 87.0% were aged between 16-30 years. Of these mothers 54.9% were primipara, 89.9% were married, and 84.6% were Christians. Amhara (44.5%), Oromo (26.3%), Gurage (17.2%), and Tigre (7.0%) were the major ethnic groups in the study population. All the 384 respondents had heard about HIV/AIDS of which, 82.3 % mentioned the major routes of transmission and 89.8% knew that that HIV could be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby. Most of the respondents (76.8%) knew that MTCT of HIV is preventable, 64.6% knew the protective effect of prophylactic anti-retroviral drugs, 37.1% knew that abstinence from breastfeeding can prevent MTCT, 10.4% knew elective caesarean section (C/S) as a preventive method and 6.9% stated that protection of the mother from HIV is the same as protecting her baby. Those mothers who were from Addis Ababa, and whose educational level was secondary and above were found to be more knowledgeable about MTCT and PMTCT. Three hundred seventeen (82.6%) of the mothers knew what VCT meant and 76.8% of them have positive attitudes to wards VCT. 69.3% of the mother indicated that mothers should be tested before breastfeeding and 67.4% agreed to have VCT before breastfeeding their new babies. 60.2% planned to have VCT before their next pregnancy. Conclusion: This study showed that most mothers in this study knew that HIV could be transmitted from mother to child and that it can be prevented. A majority are of the opinion that VCT can be a preventive strategy and most of them have the intention to have counseling and testing before the next pregnancy. Hence well-organized VCT centers and PMTCT programs should be established to halt the epidemic from affecting the next generation. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development Vol. 19(3) 2005: 211-218

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