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Determinants of male involvement in maternal and child health services in sub-Saharan Africa: a review

John Ditekemena1*, Olivier Koole2, Cyril Engmann3, Richard Matendo4, Antoinette Tshefu4, Robert Ryder5 and Robert Colebunders6

Author Affiliations

1 Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

2 Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

3 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

4 Kinshasa School of Public Health, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

5 Division of Hospital Medicine, University of California, 200 West Arbor Drive #8485, San Diego, USA

6 University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

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Reproductive Health 2012, 9:32  doi:10.1186/1742-4755-9-32

Published: 21 November 2012



Male participation is a crucial component in the optimization of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services. This is especially so where prevention strategies to decrease Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) are sought. This study aims to identify determinants of male partners’ involvement in MCH activities, focusing specifically on HIV prevention of maternal to child transmission (PMTCT) in sub-Saharan Africa.


Literature review was conducted using the following data bases: Pubmed/MEDLINE; CINAHL; EMBASE; COCHRANE; Psych INFORMATION and the websites of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the International AIDS Conference and the International Conference on AIDS in Africa (ICASA) 2011.


We included 34 studies in this review, which reported on male participation in MCH and PMTCT services. The majority of studies defined male participation as male involvement solely during antenatal HIV testing. Other studies defined male involvement as any male participation in HIV couple counseling. We identified three main determinants for male participation in PMTCT services: 1) Socio-demographic factors such as level of education, income status; 2) health services related factors such as opening hours of services, behavior of health providers and the lack of space to accommodate male partners; and 3) Sociologic factors such as beliefs, attitudes and communication between men and women.


There are many challenges to increase male involvement/participation in PMTCT services. So far, few interventions addressing these challenges have been evaluated and reported. It is clear however that improvement of antenatal care services by making them more male friendly, and health education campaigns to change beliefs and attitudes of men are absolutely needed.

Male involvement; HIV/AIDS; MCH services