Author Archives: Becca Fielding-Miller

MAKING THE CUT: EVIDENCE-BASED LESSONS FOR IMPROVING THE INFORMED CONSENT PROCESS FOR VOLUNTARY MEDICAL MALE CIRCUMCISION IN SWAZILAND AND ZAMBIA

The informed consent (IC) process for voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) was evaluated in Zambia and Swaziland as VMMC programs scaled up. In-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted with clients 1 week after surgery to explore understanding of IC and gauge how expectations of MC surgery compared to actual experiences. In Zambia, key opinion leaders (KOLs) were also interviewed. Some clients equated written IC with releasing the clinic from liability. Most clients felt well prepared for the procedure, although many were surprised by the level of pain experienced during anesthesia and postsurgery. Clients were highly motivated to adhere to wound care, but some were overwhelmed by extensive instructions. Adolescents described barriers to accessing follow-up care and the need for support in overcoming adult gatekeepers. KOLs indicated that IC is not well understood in poorly educated communities.

Read more here.

‘It Depends on Them’ – Exploring Order and Disjuncture in Responding to the Local Needs of AIDS Affected Communities in the Kingdom of Swaziland

Though the role of global-local partnerships in the HIV/AIDS response has been widely advocated, many social theorists question their ability to promote sustainable change in the lives of everyday communities…This article unpacks the specifics of this ‘distance’ in the context of the HIV/AIDS response in the Kingdom of Swaziland.

Read more here.

“There is hunger in my community”: a qualitative study of food security as a cyclical force in sex work in Swaziland.

In 2011 one in four Swazis required food aid from the World Food Programme. In southern Africa, food insecurity has been linked to high-risk sexual behaviors, difficulty with antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence, higher rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission, and more rapid HIV progression. Sex workers in Swaziland are a population that is most at risk of HIV. Little is known about the context and needs of sex workers in Swaziland who are living with HIV, nor how food insecurity may affect these needs.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 female sex workers who are living with HIV in Swaziland. Interviews took place in four different regions of the country, and were designed to learn about context, experiences, and health service needs of Swazi sex workers.

Hunger was a major and consistent theme in our informants’ lives. Women cited their own hunger or that of their children as the impetus to begin sex work, and as a primary motivation to continue to sell sex. Informants used good nutrition and the ability to access “healthy” foods as a strategy to manage their HIV infection. Informants discussed difficulty in adhering to ART when faced with the prospect of taking pills on an empty stomach. Across interviews, discussions of CD4 counts and ART adherence intertwined with discussions of poverty, hunger and healthy foods. Some sex workers felt that they had greater trouble accessing food through social networks as result of both their HIV status and profession.

Informants described a risk cycle of hunger, sex work, and HIV infection. The two latter drive an increased need for ‘healthy foods’ and an alienation from social networks that offer material and emotional support against hunger. Services and interventions for sex workers which address the pathways through which food insecurity generates vulnerability to HIV and social marginalization, build sex workers collective efficacy to mobilize, consider poverty alleviation, and address social and policy level changes are necessary and likely to have the greatest success.

Read more at BMC Public Health

“They are human beings, they are Swazi”: intersecting stigmas and the positive health, dignity and prevention needs of HIV-positive men who have sex with men in Swaziland.

Despite the knowledge that men who have sex with men (MSM) are more likely to be infected with HIV across settings, there has been little investigation of the experiences of MSM who are living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Using the framework of positive health, dignity and prevention, we explored the experiences and HIV prevention, care and treatment needs of MSM who are living with HIV in Swaziland.

The predominant theme was the significant and multiple forms of stigma and discrimination faced by MSM living with HIV in this setting due to both their sexual identity and HIV status. Dual stigma led to selective disclosure or lack of disclosure of both identities, and consequently a lack of social support for care-seeking and medication adherence. Perceived and experienced stigma from healthcare settings, particularly around sexual identity, also led to delayed care-seeking, travel to more distant clinics and missed opportunities for appropriate services. Participants described experiences of violence and lack of police protection as well as mental health challenges. Key informants, however, reflected on their duty to provide non-discriminatory services to all Swazis regardless of personal beliefs.

Intersectionality provides a framework for understanding the experiences of dual stigma and discrimination faced by MSM living with HIV in Swaziland and highlights how programmes and policies should consider the specific needs of this population when designing HIV prevention, care and treatment services. In Swaziland, the health sector should consider providing specialized training for healthcare providers, distributing condoms and lubricants and engaging MSM as peer outreach workers or expert clients. Interventions to reduce stigma, discrimination and violence against MSM and people living with HIV are also needed for both healthcare workers and the general population. Finally, research on experiences and needs of MSM living with HIV globally can help inform comprehensive HIV services for this population.

Read more at the Journal of the International AIDS Society

Sexual stigma and discrimination as barriers to seeking appropriate healthcare among men who have sex with men in Swaziland.

Risher K, Adams D, Sithole B, Ketende S, Kennedy C, Mnisi Z, Mabusa X, Baral SD.

Same-sex practices and orientation are both stigmatized and criminalized in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa. This study aimed to assess the relationship of fear of seeking healthcare and disclosure of same-sex practices among a sample of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Swaziland with demographic, socio-economic and behavioural determinants. Three hundred and twenty-three men who reported having had anal sex with a man in the past year were recruited using respondent-driven sampling and administered a structured survey instrument.

Stigma was common, including 61.7% (95% CI=54.0-69.0%) reporting fear of seeking healthcare, 44.1% (95% CI=36.2-51.3%) any enacted stigma and 73.9% (95% CI=67.7-80.1%) any perceived social stigma (family, friends). Ever disclosing sexual practices with other men to healthcare providers was low (25.6%, 95% CI=19.2-32.1%). In multiple logistic regression, fear of seeking healthcare was significantly associated with: having experienced legal discrimination as a result of sexual orientation or practice (aOR=1.9, 95% CI=1.1-3.4), having felt like you wanted to end your life (aOR=2.0, 95% CI=1.2-3.4), having been raped (aOR=11.0, 95% CI=1.4-84.4), finding it very difficult to insist on condom use when a male partner does not want to use a condom (aOR=2.1, 95% CI=1.0-4.1) and having a non-Swazi nationality at birth (aOR=0.18, 95% CI=0.05-0.68). In multiple logistic regression, disclosure of same-sex practices to a healthcare provider was significantly associated with: having completed secondary education or more (aOR=5.1, 95% CI=2.5-10.3), having used a condom with last casual male sexual partner (aOR=2.4, 95% CI=1.0-5.7) and having felt like you wanted to end your life (aOR=2.1, 95% CI=1.2-3.8).

MSM in Swaziland report high levels of stigma and discrimination. The observed associations can inform structural interventions to increase healthcare seeking and disclosure of sexual practices to healthcare workers, facilitating enhanced behavioural and biomedical HIV-prevention approaches among MSM in Swaziland.

Read more at the Journal of the International AIDS Society

A cross-sectional assessment of the burden of HIV and associated individual- and structural-level characteristics among men who have sex with men in Swaziland.

Baral SD, Ketende S, Mnisi Z, Mabuza X, Grosso A, Sithole B, Maziya S, Kerrigan DL, Green JL, Kennedy CE, Adams D.

In 2011, 324 men who reported sex with another man in the last 12 months were accrued using respondent-driven sampling (RDS). Participants completed HIV testing using Swazi national guidelines as well as structured survey instruments administered by trained staff, including modules on demographics, individual-level behavioural and biological risk factors, social and structural characteristics and uptake of HIV services. Overall, HIV prevalence was 17.6% (n=50/284), although it was strongly correlated with age in bivariate- [odds ratio (OR) 1.2, 95% BCI 1.15-1.21] and multivariate-adjusted analyses (adjusted OR 1.24, 95% BCI 1.14-1.35) for each additional year of age. Nearly, 70.8% (n=34/48) were unaware of their status of living with HIV. Condom use with all sexual partners and condom-compatible-lubricant use with men were reported by 1.3% (95% CI 0.0-9.7). Although the epidemic in Swaziland is driven by high-risk heterosexual transmission, the burden of HIV and the HIV prevention, treatment and care needs of MSM have been understudied. The data presented here suggest that these men have specific HIV acquisition and transmission risks that differ from those of other reproductive-age adults. The scale-up in HIV services over the past decade has likely had limited benefit for MSM, potentially resulting in a scenario where epidemics of HIV among MSM expand in the context of slowing epidemics in the general population, a reality observed in most of the world.

Read more at the Journal of the International AIDS Society

Key Populations in Swaziland

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A number of recent articles have been published on key populations in Swaziland. While these populations are sometimes overlooked in the context of a generalized epidemic, female sex workers and men who have sex with men “are Swazi too.” As Swazis they face special challenges to their human rights and livelihoods, as well as HIV support and prevention needs. Read more about these studies here.

A qualitative study of community home-based care and antiretroviral adherence in Swaziland

A qualitative study of a CHBC organiztion serving an estimated 2500 clients in rural Swaziland. Semi-structured questionnaires with 79 HIV-positive clients [people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA)] yielded data on diverse aspects of being HIV positive, including insights on whether and how PLWHA perceived care supporters to facilitate ART adherence in a high stigma and structurally impoverished setting…PLWHA reports of care supporter practices that enabled ART adherence demonstrated the pivotal role that CHBC plays in many PLWHA lives, especially in hard to reach areas. Relative to clinic personnel, care supporters are often intensely engaged in clients’ experiences of sickness, stigma and poverty, rendering them influential in individuals’ decision-making. This influence must be matched with on-going training and support of care supporters, as well as a clear articulation with the formal and informal health sectors, to ensure that PLWHA are correctly counselled and care supporters themselves supported. Overall, findings showed that PLWHA experiences of CHBC should be captured and incorporated into any programme aimed at successfully implementing the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) Treatment 2.0 agenda Pillar 4 (increasing HIV testing uptake and care linkages) and Pillar 5 (strengthening community mobilization).

Read more at JIAS

Outcomes and Impact of HIV Prevention, ART and TB Programs in Swaziland – Early Evidence from Public Health Triangulation

Using multiple methods, including program monitoring and evaluation data, hospital records, and census data, the authors found that, “against a background of high, but stable HIV prevalence and decreasing HIV incidence, we documented early evidence of a mortality decline associated with the expanded national HIV response since 2004. Attribution of impact to specific interventions (versus natural epidemic dynamics) will require additional data from future household surveys, and improved routine (program, surveillance, and hospital) data at district level.”

Read more a PLoS ONE

Family planning practices and pregnancy intentions among HIV-positive and HIV-negative postpartum women in Swaziland: a cross sectional survey

In a prospective cohort study of Swazi women, approximately 70% of pregnancies, with no difference in unintended pregnancies between women who were living with HIV and women who were not. The authors conclude that “there are few differences overall between the experiences of both HIV-positive and negative women in terms of FP experiences, unintended pregnancy and services received during the early postpartum period in Swaziland. Women attending postpartum facilities are receiving satisfactory care. Access to a wider range of effective methods is urgently needed if high levels of unintended pregnancy are to be reduced among HIV-positive and HIV-negative women living in Swaziland.”

Read more at BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth