Women’s costs for accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services: findings from an observational study in Johannesburg, South Africa

Published on 2019-12-17T08:26:55Z (GMT) by
Abstract Background Evaluating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to sexual and reproductive (SRH) services requires an understanding of the health needs of individuals and what constitutes access to services. We explored women’s costs of accessing SRH services in Johannesburg, South Africa and contextualized costs based on estimates of household income. Methods We conducted an observational study of women aged 18–49 at a public HIV treatment site and two public primary health care facilities from June 2015 to August 2016. Interviews assessed women’s SRH needs (for contraception, fertility problems, menstrual problems, menopause symptoms, sexually transmitted infections (STI), experiences of intimate-partner violence (IPV), and cervical and breast cancer screening) and associated costs. We calculated average and total costs (including out-of-pocket spending, lost income, and estimated value of time spent) for women who incurred costs. We also estimated the total and average costs of meeting all SRH needs in a hypothetical “full needs met” year. Finally, we contextualize SRH spending against a measure of catastrophic expenditure (> 10% of household income). Results Among the 385 women who participated, 94.8% had at least one SRH need in the prior 12 months; 79.7% incurred costs for accessing care. On average, women spent $28.34 on SRH needs during the prior year. Excluding one HIV-negative woman who spent 112% of her annual income on infertility treatment, HIV-positive women spent more on average annually for SRH care than HIV-negative women. Sixty percent of women reported at least one unmet SRH need. If all participants sought care for all reported needs, their average annual cost would rise to $52.65 per woman. Only two women reported catastrophic expenditure – for managing infertility. Conclusions SRH needs are constants throughout women’s lives. Small annual costs can become large costs when considered cumulatively over time. As South Africa and other countries grapple with increasing access to SRH services under the rubric of universal access, it is important to remember that individuals incur costs despite free care at the point of service. Policies that address geographic proximity and service quality would be important for reducing costs and ensuring full access to SRH services. Plain English summary Literature on women’s financial and economic costs for accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care in low- and middle-income countries is extremely limited, and existing literature often overlooks out-of-pocket costs associated with travel, child care, and time spent accessing services. Using data from a survey of 385 women from a public HIV treatment site and two public primary health care facilities in Johannesburg, we found nearly all women reported at least on sexual and reproductive health need and more than 75% of women incurred costs related to those needs. Furthermore, more than half of women surveyed reported not accessing services for their sexual and reproductive health needs, suggesting a total annual cost of more than $50 USD, on average, to access services for all reported needs. While few women spent more than 10% of their total household income on sexual and reproductive health services in the prior year, needs are constant and costs incur throughout a woman’s life suggesting accessing services to meet these needs might still result in financial burden. As South Africa grapples with increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services under the rubric of universal access, it is important to remember that individuals incur costs despite free care at the point of service. Policies that address geographic proximity and service quality would be important for reducing costs and ensuring full access to services.

Cite this collection

Lince-Deroche, Naomi; Berry, Kaitlyn; Hendrickson, Cheryl; Sineke, Tembeka; Kgowedi, Sharon; Mulongo, Masangu (2019): Women’s costs for accessing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services: findings from an observational study in Johannesburg, South Africa. figshare. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4784508.v1