New York Times (08.28.12)
According to a new study and literature review, women in many countries fear HIV/AIDS stigma and so avoid getting tested or receiving medical care when they are pregnant.
Based on a survey of 1,777 women in the rural Nyanza province in Kenya, the study found that just 44 percent of mothers delivered their babies in clinics. The fear of HIV testing was a major obstacle to clinic use, researchers discovered.
A review of multiple studies in many countries published in July by the same author of the Kenya study, Janet M. Turan, revealed similar findings. Turan is a professor of public health at the University of Alabama—Birmingham.
Women may know that treatment helps them and their babies, but still avoid testing, according to the research. Many fear if they test HIV-positive their husbands would kick them out of the house. One woman said her neighbors would assume she was a prostitute.
The worldwide review described stigma the women had experienced, even from health professionals. One Mexican woman, for example, said a doctor asked, “How can you even think of getting pregnant knowing you will kill your child because you’re positive?” The doctor threatened not to see her again if she became pregnant, said the woman.
The Kenyan government’s campaign to get women to visit clinics may have accidentally backfired by implying that it was especially important for HIV-infected mothers. About 84 percent of women of childbearing age in the province studied were not infected, the report said.
[PNU editor’s note: The new study, “The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study,” was published in Public Library of Science Medicine (2012;9(8):e1001295).]