This study explored beliefs and actual practices of young women on utilization of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV services in Balaka district of Southern Malawi. The study design wascross sectional which utilized qualitative data collection and analysis methods. In-depth interviews were conducted on 12 young mothers of 15 to 24 years old. The respondents were drawn from 6 health centres in the district during their visits to either the under-five clinic, HIV and AIDS support groups or HIV follow up clinics. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis approach. Overall the respondents had positive beliefs on utilization of PMTCT services. They believed that adherence to PMTCT guidelines such as condom use, taking of Nevirapine (NVP) and exclusive breastfeeding protected the baby from contracting the virus. Nevertheless, all respondents believed that HIV testing was mandatory and that early weaning caused malnutrition and death of babies. Actual practice was very low. Very few young mothers breastfed exclusively, weaned their babies abruptly and took NVP as recommended. Not all positive beliefs translated into positive behavior. Lack of male support, inability of the midwives to provide comprehensive care to HIV infected mothers and their infants, and fear of stigma and discrimination were other factors that hindered utilization of PMTCT services. Culture was also a major barrier because traditionally babies are expected to be breastfed and supplements are fed to babies too. Therefore, there is a need to mobilize communities on PMTCT of HIV. Education programmes in HIV should emphasize behavior change interventions and should focus on both men and women and significant others. There is also need to intensify monitoring and evaluation of health workers’ activities to ensure that beliefs translate into positive behavior.
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