In many Sub-Saharan African settings male partner involvement in antenatal care (ANC) remains low, although great benefits for maternal and infant health outcomes have been long recognised, in particular regarding the prevention of HIV transmission. Yet there is paucity on evidence regarding the effectiveness of strategies to increase male partner involvement. This controlled intervention trial in Ruanda Health Centre in Mbeya, Tanzania, assessed the effectiveness of invitation letters for male involvement in ANC. Pregnant women approaching ANC without partners received official letters inviting the partner to attend ANC. A control group was instructed to verbally invite partners. Partner attendance was recorded at two subsequent ANC visits. Rates for male partner return, couple voluntary counselling and testing (CVCT), and influencing factors were analysed. From 199 ANC clients in total, 97 were assigned to the invitation letter group; 30 of these (30.9%) returned with their male partners for ANC. In the control group of 102 women, 28 (27.5%) returned with their partner. In both groups CVCT rates among jointly returning couples were 100%. Partner return/CVCT rate was not statistically different in intervention and control group (OR 1.2, p = 0.59). Former partner attendance at ANC during a previous pregnancy was the only factor found to be significantly linked with partner return (p = 0.03). Our study demonstrates that rather simple measures to increase male partner attendance in ANC and CVCT can be effective, with written and verbal invitations having comparable outcomes. In terms of practicability in Sub-Saharan African settings, we recommend systematic coaching of ANC clients on how to verbally invite male partners in the first instance, followed by written invitation letters for partners in case of their non-attendance. Further studies covering both urban and rural settings will be more informative for effective translation into policy.
Theuring, S., Jefferys, L. F., Nchimbi, P., Mbezi, P., & Sewangi, J. (2016). Increasing partner attendance in antenatal care and HIV testing services: Comparable outcomes using written versus verbal invitations in an urban facility-based controlled intervention trial in Mbeya, Tanzania. PLoS ONE, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152734