Atnasia Mecknon is an FSD Uganda Jinja alumna from Occidental College USA. She participated in a research project with FSD Jinja at St Francis health care services - the host organization. St Francis Health Care Services is an HIV/AIDs clinic and service organization which serves clients of all ages in its efforts to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDs for both the infected and affected population.
Atnasia conducted a qualitative community based participatory research that assessed factors that influence or affect the utilization of Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (EMTCT) at St Francis’ maternal and child health (MCH) program. The purpose of the research was to generate information that would be used to improve and strengthen the MCH program through direct feedback from the community of women taking part. Her research was based on observations from the EMTCT program including: access to antenatal and postnatal care services; adherence to Antiretroviral treatment (ART); and retention of clients.
Atnasia was passionate about research on EMTCT because of: studying first hand a program geared to eliminating transmission of HIV from mother to child and enrollment of infected pregnant women into antiretroviral treatment (ART) together with their families; an opportunity to study gender equality issues, including mitigation of Gender Based Violence (GBV); women’s reproductive rights; and information on sexual and reproductive health services while engaging male partners.
Her qualitative research activity involved holding key informant exit interviews with some of the mothers who were among the active EMTCT participants benefiting from the program at St Francis. Her study findings revealed that the main obstacles affecting the mothers from effectively benefiting from the EMTCT program were: 1) Lack of money for transport to the clinic, 2) Competing interests especially looking for food as opposed to seeking EMTCT services, 3) Stigma arising from feeling reluctant to be seen by people known to them that they are receiving treatment.
The research project generated information that was used by St Francis health care and community stakeholders in improving the EMTCT program. Some of the recommendations of the research study to improve and strengthen the EMTCT program include: sensitization of EMTCT clients on the importance of of keeping appointments; training on income generating activities as means of addressing financial challenges; refresher trainings on EMTCT for midwives; promotion of the work done by the village health (VHTs) teams through identity advertisement in form of giving them T-shirt uniforms and VHTs availed with audio amplifiers to easily communicate with larger community audiences about the St Francis EMTCT program.