Patterns of Attendance at Mother Support Groups in Zimbabwe. The EPAZ Trial (2014–2016)

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Background:In Southern Africa, groups of mothers living with HIV successfully provide peer psychosocial support during pregnancy and early childhood. We report patterns of attendance at Mother Support Groups (MSGs) sessions among women and mothers living with HIV in rural Zimbabwe.Methods:In the Elimination of Pediatric AIDS cluster-randomized trial, MSGs were established in 14 health facilities in Mutare and Makoni districts. Patterns of attendance at MSG sessions were categorized by calendar attendance from delivery to 6-month postpartum using a Dynamic Time Warping clustering method. Baseline characteristics of women and postpartum MSG attendance patterns were described. Linkages between these patterns and 12-month postpartum retention in care were explored using mixed-effects models.Results:Most women (88%) attended at least 1 MSG session between enrollment and 6-month postpartum. Two patterns of postpartum MSG attendance, “Regular Attendance” and “Non-Regular Attendance,” were readily identified. Being older than 32 (P = 0.01), booking for antenatal care before 22 weeks gestational age (P = 0.02), and being on antiretroviral therapy at first antenatal care booking (P = 0.01) were significantly associated with “Regular Attendance.” “Regular Attendance” at MSG sessions during the 6-month postpartum period was significantly associated with better retention in care at 12 months, compared with “Non-Regular Attendance” (P < 0.01).Discussion:Women living with HIV attended MSG sessions. However, few attended regularly. Younger and newly diagnosed women were less likely to attend postpartum MSG sessions or remain in care at 12 months postpartum. Peer support models should consider specific needs of these women, especially in rural areas, in order for MSGs to contribute to improve maternal and child health outcomes.

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