Should HIV+ women even think about having children?

Should HIV-positive woman even think about having children? Of course they can have children, but they need to be fully aware and educated about their own reproductive rights.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health nongovernmental organisation (NGO), research in both the developed and developing world suggests that HIV status does not significantly dampen people’s desire to have children. As more and more HIV-infected South Africans access life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, the question of whether or not to have a child, and how to do so as safely as possible, is bound to become more common.

Here is some more:

The disapproval of friends and family, and even some health workers, may deter those less well-informed than Madonsela from learning more about their options. “Most people think if you’re positive you don’t have the right to be in a relationship, or to have a baby,” she said.

HIV-positive pregnant women in many countries face pressure by health workers to have abortions or to be sterilised, according to the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW).

Despite these obstacles, a small but growing number of HIV-positive men and women are deciding to have children. In the developed world there are a number of options: a process called ‘sperm washing’, which separates sperm from HIV-causing agents before being used for insemination, is safest for couples where a positive man wants to avoid the risk of infecting his negative female partner or reinfecting his positive partner; artificial insemination is the safest way of conceiving for couples with a positive woman and a negative man.

One Response to Should HIV+ women even think about having children?

  1. sf positive says:

    Thank you for your website. I am an HIV+ woman who was infected by a boyfriend in 1986 when I was 18. It would have been–was unthinkable then that someone of my kind would have children, and I knew no other positive people (my boy friend had just died when I found out) to know that once you were HIV+ you would ever have a sexual relationshp again. My first grief upon diagnosis was the not having children. Once I kept survivng a certain number of years I thought I had let those longings thouroughly die–but now somehow I am 41. I had thought I wouldn’t live long enough to have children (even if infection hadn’t been the consideration) but I didn’t expect to possible live too long to have them! All those feelings are now impossibly overwhelming again.

    I am a lonely minority where I am (San Francisco) in that even once it was determined that perinatal transmission could be prevented, I did not have children because I did not think it was my right too. My health is reliably good, but my healthcare is extremely expensive and–you absolutely can not say things like this outlloud here–I did not believe it was my somehow ordained “reproductive right” to bring another human being into the world if I could not pull my own weight myself in life,

    I respect other HIV+ women’s views and decisions about this, but reproductive rights are so fiercely defended here that I can’t get any help the flood of feelings loss I have now about a decision I believe to be “right.” Most of support services I can go to here are for a women-and-children’s category I don’t want to be referred to.

    Your article was the first I’ve read about this issue. I would like to know more about how this plays out in South Africa.

    Thank you,

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