Original Research

Non-disclosure of HIV-positive status to a partner and mother-to-child transmission of HIV: Evidence from a case–control study conducted in a rural county in Kenya

Joram Nyandat, Gisela van Rensburg
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 18, No 1 | a691 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v18i1.691 | © 2017 Joram Nyandat, Gisela van Rensburg | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 September 2016 | Published: 29 November 2017

About the author(s)

Joram Nyandat, Department of Health Studies, University of South, South Africa
Gisela van Rensburg, Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Background: Many factors contribute to an enhanced risk of infant HIV acquisition, two of which may include failure of a mother to disclose her HIV-positive status to her partner and exclusion of male partners in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) interventions. To justify why HIV programmes need to integrate male partner involvement and partner disclosure, we need to establish an association between the two factors and infant HIV acquisition.

Objective: To determine whether failure to disclose an HIV-positive status to a male partner is associated with increased risk of infant HIV acquisition, and whether part of the association is explained by exclusion of male partner in PMTCT programmes.

Methods: Using a case–control study design, we identified a total of 180 mother–baby pairs with HIV-exposed infants. Thirty-six pairs with HIV-positive babies (cases) were compared to 144 pairs with HIV-negative babies (controls) on whether the mothers had disclosed their HIV status to their partner in order to determine whether a disclosure or lack of it contributed to increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT). Each case pair was matched to four control pairs from the same facility.

Results: Overall, 16.7% of mothers had not disclosed their HIV status to their partners, the proportion being significantly more among cases (52.8% vs. 7.6%, p < 0.001). Non-disclosure was significantly associated with infant HIV acquisition (aOR 9.8 (3.0–26.3); p < 0.001) and male partner involvement partially mediated the effect of non-disclosure on infant HIV acquisition (indirect coefficient = 0.17, p < 0.005).

Conclusions: Failure of an HIV-positive woman to disclose her status to her male partner and exclusion of male partners in PMTCT programmes are two social factors that may curtail success of interventions towards the goal of eliminating MTCT.


Matched case-control; vertical transmission of HIV; infant HIV acquisition; Partner non-disclosure; male partner involvement


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