The underlying reasons for very high levels of bed net use, and higher malaria infection prevalence among bed net users
Background: Bed nets reduce malaria-related illness and deaths, by forming a protective barrier around people sleeping under them. When impregnated with long-lasting insecticide formulations they also repel or kill mosquitoes attempting to feed upon sleeping humans, and can even suppress entire populations of malaria vectors that feed predominantly upon humans. Nevertheless, an epidemiological study in 2012 demonstrated higher malaria prevalence among bed net users than non-users in urban Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Methods: Focus group discussions were conducted with women from four selected wards of Dar es Salaam city, focusing on four major themes relating to bed net use behaviours: (1) reasons for bed net use, (2) reasons for not using bed nets, (3) stimuli or reminders for people to use a bed net (4) perceived reasons for catching malaria while using a bed net. An analytical method by framework grouping of relevant themes was used address key issues of relevance to the study objectives. Codes were reviewed and grouped into categories and themes.
Results: All groups said the main reason for bed net use was protection against malaria. Houses with well-screened windows, with doors that shut properly, and that use insecticidal sprays against mosquitoes, were said not to use bed nets, while frequent attacks from malaria was the main stimulus for people to use bed nets. Various reasons were mentioned as potential reasons that compromise bed net efficacy, the most common of which were: (1) bed net sharing by two or more people, especially if one occupant tends to come to bed late at night, and does not tuck in the net 71%; (2) one person shares the bed but does not use the net, moving it away from the side on which s/he sleeps 68%; (3) ineffective usage habits, called ulalavi, in which a sprawling sleeper either touches the net while sleeping up against it or leaves a limb hanging outside of it 68%. Less common reasons mentioned included: (1) Small bed nets which become un-tucked at night (31%); (2) Bed nets with holes large enough to allow mosquitoes to pass (28%); and (3) Going to bed late after already being bitten outdoors (24%).
Conclusions: Behaviours associated with bed net use like; bed sharing, bed net non compliant-bedfellow, sleeping pattern like ulalavi and some physical bed net attributes compromise its effectiveness and supposedly increase of malaria infection to bed net users. While some well-screened houses looked to instigate low malaria prevalence to non-bed net users.