Perspectives on male partner notification and treatment for syphilis among antenatal women and their partners in Kampala and Wakiso districts, Uganda

Edith Nakku-Joloba, Juliet Kiguli, Christine Nalwadda Kayemba, Adeline Twimukye, Joshua Kimeze Mbazira, Rosalind Parkes-Ratanshi, Monica Birungi, Joshua Kyenkya, Josaphat Byamugisha, Charlotte Gaydos, Yukari C. Manabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Syphilis screening can be successfully integrated into antenatal clinics, and potentially avert significant morbidity and mortality to unborn infants. A minority of male partners report for testing and treatment, increasing the likelihood of reinfection. We conducted a qualitative study to understand factors influencing male partners to seek treatment after syphilis notification by their pregnant partners. Methods: A purposeful sample of 54 adults who participated in the STOP (Syphilis Treatment of Partners) study was stratified by gender (24 women, 30 male partners) and enrolled for in-depth interviews which were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using the thematic approach. Results: The participants' median age (IQR) was 32 years (25-44), 87% were married, and 57.4% (31/74) had attained secondary education. Fourteen of 22 (63%) female participants reported that they sometimes experienced domestic violence. Male participant's knowledge of syphilis and their perception of their valued role as responsible fathers of an unborn baby facilitated return. Female's fear of partner's violence and poor communication between partners, were barriers against delivery of the notification forms to partners and subsequent treatment of partners. For men, fear of injection pain, perceptions of syphilis as a genetic disease and as a woman's problem, busy work schedules, poor access to good STD services, shared facilities with women in clinics, as well as HIV-related stigma were important barrier factors. Conclusions: The return to the clinic for treatment of male partners after partner notification by infected pregnant women, was low due to limited knowledge about syphilis, fear of painful injection, fears of domestic violence, lack of communication skills (individual characteristics) and syphilis disease characteristics such as signs and symptoms. This, combined with health services characteristics such as structural barriers that hinder male partner treatment, low access, low capacity, work/time challenges, inadequate laboratory services and low clinic personnel capacity; threatens efforts to eliminate mother-to-child infection of syphilis. Improved public messaging about syphilis, better services, legal and policy frameworks supporting STD notification and treatment in resource-constrained settings are needed for effective STD control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124
JournalBMC infectious diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 6 2019


  • Maternal syphilis
  • Partner notification
  • Resource constrained settings
  • Socio-cultural factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases


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