HIV Stigma Deters Rural African Women from Seeking Prenatal Care

Many women in rural areas of Kenya do not seek prenatal care in clinics for fear of being stigmatized as being HIV positive, according to a study published in PLoS Medicine, the leading open-access medical journal.

The study, based on a 2007-2009 survey of 1,777 pregnant women in a highly-populated area of rural Kenya, found that only 44% of young pregnant women gave birth in clinics. Many women chose to deliver outside of a clinic setting to avoid HIV testing, despite knowing the risks of spreading HIV to their baby without any treatment. One participant stated “There are men who don’t like it when their women come to the clinic, and they do quarrel [with] their wives if they heard that the women were screened for HIV… Some men can even send their women away just because of that.”

Similarly, a comprehensive literature review published in July by the Health Policy Project found the prevalence of HIV stigma affects women seeking prenatal care in other parts of Africa and the world. The tragedy is antiretroviral drug treatment during pregnancy reduces mother-to-child-transmission of HIV to less than 5% according to the World Health Organization, and prenatal care reduces maternal mortality.


New York Times 8/27/12; PLoS Medicine 8/22/12, Health Policy Project 7/24/12

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