In India, approximately 49,000 women living with HIV become pregnant and deliver each year. While the government of India has made progress increasing the availability of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services, only about one quarter of pregnant women received an HIV test in 2010, and about one-in-five that were found positive for HIV received interventions to prevent vertical transmission of HIV.
Between February 2012 to March 2013, 14 HIV-positive women who had recently delivered a baby were recruited from HIV positive women support groups, Government of India Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers, and nongovernmental organizations in Mysore and Pune, India. In-depth interviews were conducted to examine their general experiences with antenatal healthcare; specific experiences around HIV counseling and testing; and perceptions about their care and follow-up treatment. Data were analyzed thematically using the human rights framework for HIV testing adopted by the United Nations and India’s National AIDS Control Organization.
While all of the HIV-positive women in the study received HIV and PMTCT services at a government hospital or antiretroviral therapy center, almost all reported attending a private clinic or hospital at some point in their pregnancy. According to the participants, HIV testing often occurred without consent; there was little privacy; breaches of confidentiality were commonplace; and denial of medical treatment occurred routinely. Among women living with HIV in this study, violations of their human rights occurred more commonly in private rather than public healthcare settings.
There is an urgent need for capacity building among private healthcare providers to improve standards of practice with regard to informed consent process, HIV testing, patient confidentiality, treatment, and referral of pregnant women living with HIV.
India; HIV testing; Antenatal care; Confidentiality; Diagnosis; Qualitative research; Perinatal transmission
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common cause of abnormal vaginal discharge in reproductive age women. It is associated with increased susceptibility to HIV/STI and adverse birth outcomes. Diagnosis of BV in resource-poor settings like India is challenging. With little laboratory infrastructure there is a need for objective point-of-care diagnostic tests. Vaginal swabs were collected from women 18 years and older, with a vaginal pH > 4.5 attending a reproductive health clinic. BV was diagnosed with Amsel's criteria, Nugent scores, and the OSOM BVBlue test. Study personnel were blinded to test results. There were 347 participants enrolled between August 2009 and January 2010. BV prevalence was 45.1% (95% confidence interval (CI): 41.5%–52.8%) according to Nugent score. When compared with Nugent score, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value for Amsel's criteria and BVBlue were 61.9%, 88.3%, 81.5%, 73.7% and 38.1%, 92.7%, 82.1%, 63.9%, respectively. Combined with a “whiff” test, the performance of BVBlue increased sensitivity to 64.4% and negative predictive value to 73.8%. Despite the good specificity, poor sensitivity limits the usefulness of the BVBlue as a screening test in this population. There is a need to examine the usefulness of this test in other Indian populations.
Few studies have examined intimate partner physical violence (IPPV) in south India. This article examines the frequency and correlates of IPPV among 898 young married women from urban, rural, and periurban areas of Mysore, India. Most (69.2%) of the participants were Hindus and 28.7% were Muslims. Overall, 50% of participants reported some type of IPPV. Factors that were independently associated with IPPV included being younger than 18 years at the time of marriage, contributing some household income, having anal sex, reporting sexual violence, and having a sex partner who drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes. Women with skilled occupation were at reduced odds of experiencing IPPV compared with women who did not work. These findings suggest that IPPV is highly prevalent in this setting and that additional interventions are needed to reduce morbidity particularly among young women. These data also suggest that more studies are needed among men who perpetrate IPPV in south India.
income; India; intimate partner; violence; women
There are sparse data on herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection in India. HSV-2 is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and the primary cause of genital ulcer disease worldwide.
The aim of this study is to describe the incidence of HSV-2 infection among young reproductive age women in Mysore, India.
Setting and Design
Between October 2005 and April 2006, 898 women were enrolled into a prospective cohort study in Mysore, India, and followed quarterly for 6 months.
Materials and Methods
An interviewer administered questionnaire was used to collect demographic and social risk factors, and physical examination was conducted for collection of biological specimens to screen for reproductive tract infections at each visit. Serologic testing was conducted for the presence of HSV-2 antibodies using HerpeSelect HSV-2 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Statistical Analysis Used
Data were analyzed using R. Incidence density rates were calculated using Poisson distributions with person-time of follow-up as denominator. Person-time was calculated as time from enrollment until time of first positive HSV-2 test.
There were 107 women with HSV-2 antibodies leaving 700 women with negative results at enrollment. The analysis included 696 out of which, there were 36 HSV-2 seroconversions during the study period. The study cohort accumulated roughly 348 woman-years of follow-up, yielding an HSV-2 acquisition rate of 10.4 cases/100 woman-years. All detected infections were asymptomatic.
HSV-2 incidence is moderate in this community sample of young reproductive age monogamous women. More research is needed to establish incidence estimates in different Indian settings.
Herpes simplex virus; herpes simplex virus type 2; incidence; India; Women
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and Trichomonas vaginalis infection (TV) have been associated with adverse birth outcomes and increased risk for HIV. We compare the performance of simple inexpensive point-of-care (POC) tests to laboratory diagnosis and syndromic management of BV and TV in poor settings.
Between November 2005 and March 2006, 898 sexually active women attending two reproductive health clinics in Mysore, India were recruited into a cohort study investigating the relationship between vaginal flora and HSV-2 infection. Participants were interviewed and screened for reproductive tract infections. Laboratory tests included serology for HSV-2; cultures for TV, Candida sp., and Neisseria gonorrhoeae; Gram stains; and two POC tests: vaginal pH; and Whiff test.
Of the 898 participants, 411 [45.7%, 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 42.4–49.0%] had any laboratory diagnosed vaginal infection. BV was detected in 165 women (19.1%, 95%CI: 16.5–21.9%) using Nugent score. TV was detected in 76 women (8.5%, 95%CI: 6.7–10.4%) using culture. Among the entire study population, POC correctly detected 82% of laboratory diagnosed BV cases, and 83% of laboratory diagnosed TV infections. Among women with complaints of vulval itching, burning, abnormal vaginal discharge, and/or sores (445/898), POC correctly detected 83% (60 of 72 cases) of laboratory diagnosed BV cases vs. 40% (29 of 72 cases) correctly managed using the syndromic approach (P < 0.001). Similarly, POC would have detected 82% (37 of 45 cases) of TV cases vs. 51% (23 of 45 cases) correctly managed using the syndromic approach (P = 0.001).
In the absence of laboratory diagnostics, POC is not only inexpensive and practical, but also significantly more sensitive than the syndromic management approach, resulting in less overtreatment.
bacterial vaginosis; India; point-of-care; vaginal discharge; Trichomonas vaginalis; resource constrained settings
Trichomonas vaginalis infection is the most common curable sexually transmissible infection (STI) worldwide. The present study describes the burden and correlates of T. vaginalis infection among young reproductive age women in Mysore, India.
Between November 2005 and March 2006, sexually active women aged 15–30 years were recruited from low-income peri-urban and rural neighbourhoods of Mysore, India. Participants were interviewed and offered a physical examination and testing for T. vaginalis, bacterial vaginosis, vaginal candidiasis, Neisseria gonorrheoea and herpes simplex virus type-2 antibodies.
Of the 898 participating women, 76 had a T. vaginalis infection (8.5%, 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 6.7–10.5%). Nearly all (98%) participants were married and most reported their spouse as their main sex partner. The mean age at marriage was 16.9 years (s.d. 2.9 years) and two-thirds of the sample reported having first sexual intercourse before the age of 19 years. Risk factors independently associated with T. vaginalis infection included early age at first intercourse (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.09; 95% CI: 1.09–4.00), concurrent bacterial vaginosis (OR 8.21; 95% CI: 4.30–15.66), vaginal candidiasis (OR 2.40; 95% CI: 1.48–3.89) and herpes simplex virus type-2 infection (OR 3.44; 95% CI: 1.97–6.02).
The burden of T. vaginalis infection at 8.5% is relatively high among a community sample of young reproductive aged women. Because this infection increases the risk of HIV transmission and is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, there is a need for increased screening and treatment of this easily curable sexually transmissible infection in India.
correlates; epidemiology; sexually transmissible diseases; women
The prevalence of sexual violence is increasingly being studied in India. Yet the determinants of sexual violence, irrespective of physical violence, remain largely unexplored. Here the authors identify the determinants of sexual violence, and additionally, explore how the presence of physical violence modifies these determinants. A cross-sectional analysis is conducted using baseline data from a longitudinal study involving young married women attending reproductive health clinics in Southern India. A multivariable logistic regression analysis is conducted to first identify determinants of sexual violence and then repeated after stratifying elements based on presence or absence of physical violence identified from participants’ reports. 36% and 50% of the participants report experiencing sexual and physical violence, respectively. After adjusting for other covariates, women’s partners’ characteristics are found most significantly associated with their odds of experiencing sexual violence. These characteristics include husbands’ primary education, employment as drivers, alcohol consumption, and having multiple sex partners. Women’s contribution to household income also increases their odds of experiencing sexual violence by almost twofold; however, if they are solely responsible for “all” household income, the relationship is found to be protective. Physical violence modifies the determinants of sexual violence, and among women not experiencing physical violence, husbands’ primary education and employment as drivers increase women’s odds of experiencing sexual violence nearly threefold, and women who contribute “all” the household income (n = 62) do not experience sexual violence. These relationships are not significant among women experiencing physical violence. Study findings improve the understanding of the determinants of sexual violence. Future research is needed to examine the risk factors for different types of GBV independently and to tease apart the differences in risk factors depending on women’s experiences. The significance of male partners’ characteristics warrants in-depth research, and in order to promote gender-equitable norms, future interventions need to focus on male behaviors and men’s day-to-day survival challenges, all of which likely influence conflicts in marital relationships.
gender-based violence; sexual violence; physical violence; India
There is currently little information on the acceptability of male circumcision in India. This study investigated the acceptability of male circumcision among Indian mothers with male children.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted among a convenience sample of 795 women attending a reproductive health clinic in Mysore, India, between January and April 2007.
Of the 1012 invited eligible participants, 795 women agreed to participate (response rate = 78.5%). The majority of women were Hindus (78%), 18% were Muslims, and 4% were Christians. About 26% of respondents had no schooling, 29% had 7 years of schooling, 42% had 8–12 years, and 3% had more than 12 years. After women were informed about the risks and benefits of male circumcision, a majority of women with uncircumcised children (n = 564, 81%) said they would definitely circumcise their children if the procedure were offered in a safe hospital setting, free of charge, and a smaller number (n = 50, 7%) said they would probably consider the procedure. Only seven women (1%) said that they would definitely/probably not consider male circumcision, and 63 (9%) were unsure.
Since male circumcision has been found to decrease risk of HIV infection among men, it is important to determine its acceptability as a potential HIV prevention strategy in India. This study found male circumcision to be highly acceptable among a broad range of mothers with male children in Mysore, India. Further studies of acceptability among fathers and other populations are warranted.
acceptability; circumcision; India; men; women
Background. Vulvovaginal candidiasis is characterized by curd-like vaginal discharge and itching, and is associated with considerable health and economic costs. Materials and Methods. We examined the incidence, prevalence, and risk factors for vulvovaginal candidiasis among a cohort of 898 women in south India. Participants completed three study visits over six months, comprised of a structured interview and a pelvic examination. Results. The positive predictive values for diagnosis of vulvovaginal candidiasis using individual signs or symptoms were low (<19%). We did not find strong evidence for associations between sociodemographic characteristics and the prevalence of vulvovaginal candidiasis. Women clinically diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis had a higher prevalence of vulvovaginal candidiasis (Prevalence 12%, 95% CI 8.2, 15.8) compared to women assessed to be negative for bacterial vaginosis (Prevalence 6.5%, 95% 5.3, 7.6); however, differences in the prevalence of vulvovaginal candidiasis were not observed by the presence or absence of laboratory-confirmed bacterial vaginosis. Conclusions. For correct diagnosis of vulvovaginal candidiasis, laboratory confirmation of infection with Candida is necessary as well as assessment of whether the discharge has been caused by bacterial vaginosis. Studies are needed of women infected with Candida yeast species to determine the risk factors for yeast's overgrowth.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) and Trichomonas vaginalis (TV), have been estimated to affect one-quarter to one-third of sexually active women worldwide, and are often found concurrently. Few studies have examined this relationship longitudinally to better understand the direction and temporality of this association.
Between 2005 and 2006, a cohort of 853 young, sexually active women was followed in Mysore, India; participants were interviewed and tested for BV and TV at baseline, and at three- and six-month visits. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate how changes in vaginal flora between consecutive visits – as defined by Nugent diagnostic criteria for BV - were related to the risk of TV infection at the latter visit, adjusted for sociodemographic and behavioral covariates. Treatment was offered to women with TV and/or symptomatic BV.
After adjustment for covariates, participants with abnormal flora at two consecutive visits had nine times higher risk of TV (95% CI 4.1, 20.0) at the latter visit, relative to those with persistently normal flora. An increased risk of TV was also observed for participants whose flora status changed from normal to abnormal (aRR 7.11, 95% CI 2.8, 18.2) and from abnormal to normal (aRR 4.50, 95% CI 1.7, 11.8).
Women experiencing abnormal flora during a three-month span appear to have significantly increased risk of acquiring TV infection. Reproductive-age women in low-resource settings found to have abnormal vaginal flora should be assessed for TV.
Bacterial vaginosis; Trichomonas vaginalis; India; women; longitudinal analysis
While India has made significant progress in reducing maternal mortality, attaining further declines will require increased skilled birth attendance and institutional delivery among marginalized and difficult to reach populations.
A population-based survey was carried out among 16 randomly selected rural villages in rural Mysore District in Karnataka, India between August and September 2008. All households in selected villages were enumerated and women with children 6 years of age or younger underwent an interviewer-administered questionnaire on antenatal care and institutional delivery.
Institutional deliveries in rural areas of Mysore District increased from 51% to 70% between 2002 and 2008. While increasing numbers of women were accessing antenatal care and delivering in hospitals, large disparities were found in uptake of these services among different castes. Mothers belonging to general castes were almost twice as likely to have an institutional birth as compared to scheduled castes and tribes. Mothers belonging to other backward caste or general castes had 1.8 times higher odds (95% CI: 1.21, 2.89) of having an institutional delivery as compared to scheduled castes and tribes. In multivariable analysis, which adjusted for inter- and intra-village variance, Below Poverty Line status, caste, and receiving antenatal care were all associated with institutional delivery.
The results of the study suggest that while the Indian Government has made significant progress in increasing antenatal care and institutional deliveries among rural populations, further success in lowering maternal mortality will likely hinge on the success of NRHM programs focused on serving marginalized groups. Health interventions which target SC/ST may also have to address both perceived and actual stigma and discrimination, in addition to providing needed services. Strategies for overcoming these barriers may include sensitization of healthcare workers, targeted health education and outreach, and culturally appropriate community-level interventions. Addressing the needs of these communities will be critical to achieving Millennium Development Goal Five by 2015.
Reproductive health; Millennium Development Goals; Maternal mortality; India; Women's health
Background & objectives:
There are sparse data on the prevalence of primary infertility in India and almost none from Southern India. This study describes the correlates and prevalence of primary infertility among young women in Mysore, India.
The baseline data were collected between November 2005 through March 2006, among 897 sexually active women, aged 15-30 yr, for a study investigating the relationship of bacterial vaginosis and acquisition of herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) infection. A secondary data analysis of the baseline data was undertaken. Primary infertility was defined as having been married for longer than two years, not using contraception and without a child. Logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with primary infertility.
The mean age of the women was 25.9 yr (range: 16-30 yr) and the prevalence of primary infertility was 12.6 per cent [95% Confidence Interval (CI): 10.5-15.0%]. The main factor associated with primary infertility was HSV-2 seropositivity (adjusted odds ratio: 3.41; CI: 1.86, 6.26).
Interpretation & conclusions:
The estimated prevalence of primary infertility among women in the study was within the range reported by the WHO and similar to other estimates from India. Further research is needed to examine the role of HSV-2 in primary infertility.
HSV-2; India; infertility; reproductive health; sexually transmitted disease
There is little research on HIV awareness and practices of traditional birth attendants (TBA) in India. This study investigated knowledge and attitudes among rural TBA in Karnataka as part of a project examining how traditional birth attendants could be integrated into prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programs in India.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted between March 2008 and January 2009 among TBA in 144 villages in Mysore Taluk, Karnataka. Following informed consent, TBA underwent an interviewer-administered questionnaire in the local language of Kannada on practices and knowledge around birthing and HIV/PMTCT.
Of the 417 TBA surveyed, the median age was 52 years and 96% were Hindus. A majority (324, 77.7%) had no formal schooling, 88 (21.1%) had up to 7 years and 5 (1%) had more than 7 yrs of education. Only 51 of the 417 TBA (12%) reported hearing about HIV/AIDS. Of those who had heard about HIV/AIDS, only 36 (72%) correctly reported that the virus could be spread from mother to child; 37 (74%) identified unprotected sex as a mode of transmission; and 26 (51%) correctly said healthy looking people could spread HIV. Just 22 (44%) knew that infected mothers could lower the risk of transmitting the virus to their infants. An overwhelming majority of TBA (401, 96.2%) did not provide antenatal care to their clients. Over half (254, 61%) said they would refer the woman to a hospital if she bled before delivery, and only 53 (13%) felt referral was necessary if excessive bleeding occurred after birth.
Traditional birth attendants will continue to play an important role in maternal child health in India for the foreseeable future. This study demonstrates that a majority of TBA lack basic information about HIV/AIDS and safe delivery practices. Given the ongoing shortage of skilled birth attendance in rural areas, more studies are needed to examine whether TBA should be trained and integrated into PMTCT and maternal child health programs in India.
Relatively quick and cheap tests can work but must be evaluated and monitored properly
Developing countries are currently struggling to achieve the Millennium Development Goal Five of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Many health systems are facing acute shortages of health workers needed to provide improved prenatal care, skilled birth attendance and emergency obstetric services – interventions crucial to reducing maternal death. The World Health Organization estimates a current deficit of almost 2.4 million doctors, nurses and midwives. Complicating matters further, health workforces are typically concentrated in large cities, while maternal mortality is generally higher in rural areas. Additionally, health care systems are faced with shortages of specialists such as anaesthesiologists, surgeons and obstetricians; a maldistribution of health care infrastructure; and imbalances between the public and private health care sectors. Increasingly, policy-makers have been turning to human resource strategies to cope with staff shortages. These include enhancement of existing work roles; substitution of one type of worker for another; delegation of functions up or down the traditional role ladder; innovation in designing new jobs;transfer or relocation of particular roles or services from one health care sector to another. Innovations have been funded through state investment, public-private partnerships and collaborations with nongovernmental organizations and quasi-governmental organizations such as the World Bank. This paper focuses on how two large health systems in India – Gujarat and Tamil Nadu – have successfully applied human resources strategies in uniquely different contexts to the challenges of achieving Millennium Development Goal Five.
Despite ample evidence that HIV has entered the general population, most HIV awareness programs in India continue to neglect rural areas. Low HIV awareness and high stigma, fueled by low literacy, seasonal migration, gender inequity, spatial dispersion, and cultural taboos pose extra challenges to implement much-needed HIV education programs in rural areas. This paper describes a peer education model developed to educate and empower low-literacy communities in the rural district of Perambalur (Tamil Nadu, India).
From January to December 2005, six non-governmental organizations (NGO's) with good community rapport collaborated to build and pilot-test an HIV peer education model for rural communities. The program used participatory methods to train 20 NGO field staff (Outreach Workers), 102 women's self-help group (SHG) leaders, and 52 barbers to become peer educators. Cartoon-based educational materials were developed for low-literacy populations to convey simple, comprehensive messages on HIV transmission, prevention, support and care. In addition, street theatre cultural programs highlighted issues related to HIV and stigma in the community.
The program is estimated to have reached over 30 000 villagers in the district through 2051 interactive HIV awareness programs and one-on-one communication. Outreach workers (OWs) and peer educators distributed approximately 62 000 educational materials and 69 000 condoms, and also referred approximately 2844 people for services including voluntary counselling and testing (VCT), care and support for HIV, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually-transmitted infections (STI). At least 118 individuals were newly diagnosed as persons living with HIV (PLHIV); 129 PLHIV were referred to the Government Hospital for Thoracic Medicine (in Tambaram) for extra medical support. Focus group discussions indicate that the program was well received in the communities, led to improved health awareness, and also provided the peer educators with increased social status.
Using established networks (such as community-based organizations already working on empowerment of women) and training women's SHG leaders and barbers as peer educators is an effective and culturally appropriate way to disseminate comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS to low-literacy communities. Similar models for reaching and empowering vulnerable populations should be expanded to other rural areas.