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HIV-Positive Women Who Want to Conceive Feel Stigma: Survey

FRIDAY, July 23 -- Some HIV-positive women who want to have children feel stigmatized by their doctors, new research has found.

In the study, Canadian researchers surveyed 159 HIV-positive women in the province of Ontario. Forty-five percent of the women were born in Canada, while 55 percent were born elsewhere, mainly in HIV-endemic areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

The study participants were asked about their personal background, HIV treatments, mental health and whether they felt they were being negatively judged by health-care providers, family and friends for their desire to have children.

"We do have strong evidence that women are feeling they are being judged negatively by health-care providers for wanting to have babies," study co-author Trevor Hart, director of the HIV Prevention Lab in the psychology department at Ryerson University in Toronto, said in a university news release.

Family and friends didn't play a major role in perceived stigmatization, the study authors found.

The study findings, scheduled for presentation this week at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, were also published in the June issue of the journal Archives of Women's Mental Health.

New antiretroviral drugs mean that HIV-positive women can conceive without transmitting HIV to their newborns, and health-care providers should know this and be informing patients, Hart explained in the news release.

"There needs to be more efforts to make physicians aware of the practically nil chance of HIV-positive women transmitting HIV to their newborns as long as the women are continuing to receive appropriate medical treatment," he stated.

"There also needs to be continuing medical education to reduce the stigma perceived by HIV-positive women, which will improve their mental health and well-being," Hart added.

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Posted: July 2010