Quality and quantity of antenatal HIV counsellling in a PMTCT programme in Mombasa

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


A recent report from a PMTCT implementation study in Mombasa, Kenya, points at an important gap between the efficacy in clinical trial circumstances and the effectiveness of PMTCT programmes when implemented in real life. Hence, the quality and quantity of antenatal HIV counselling in a routine setting were appraised. The counsellors’ social and communicative skills, duration and topics covered during pre- and post-test counselling sessions were assessed by means of the VCT assessment tools published by UNAIDS. A total of 14 group educational sessions, 66 pre-test counselling sessions and 50 post-test counselling sessions were observed and assessed. In general, the frequency and duration of the counselling was low. Crucial topics such as window period and partner involvement and follow-up support were covered haphazardly. The counsellor's social and communicative skills were given high marks, yet information was rarely repeated or summarized. The limited time dedicated to women receiving antenatal VCT contrasts with the heavy and comprehensive load of health information and advice they are supposed to receive. Ample pre- and post-test counselling including follow-up should be pursued for optimal effectiveness of PMTCT. We propose a number of health system interventions preceded and guided by ongoing audit.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.