Repeat pregnancy in HIV+ women worrying – UG students
Kaieteur News – May 2, 2008
A group of University of Guyana students has expressed concern over the trend of HIV-infected women having repeat pregnancies.
Under the guidance of Lecturer Monica Miller, six social workers, all of them students, conducted a seminar at the University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen Campus to address the issue.
The interactive session was held in the Cheddi Bharrat Jagan (CBJ) Lecture Hall and attracted an audience of mainly women of child-bearing age.
The students, Marlon Agrippa, Shaundell Shipley, Romel Richmond, Melissa Phillips, Charmine Walters and Natasha Dundas, made several recommendations to tackle the problem.
Shaundell Shipley, who works in the healthcare sector, pointed out that with support from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), women with HIV feel encouraged to lead normal lives. Shipley said she met with several mothers at a treatment site and discovered that they do not give thought to repeat pregnancies.
Among the reasons listed for repeat pregnancies are pressure by spouse, financial dependence, non-disclosure of status, and a level of comfort in the PMTCT programme.5
Shipley stated that women are afraid to reveal their status for fear of losing spouses and by extension their source of financial support.
She mentioned that women also feel they will be abandoned, evicted, accused of infidelity and so continue to have unprotected sex even after diagnosis.
“Some women are not working and so they have to depend on their partners for survival and partners may also pressure them to have children.”
Shipley said there is a level of comfort in the fact that 95 percent of children are born without the disease with the PMTCT programme.
She added that with NGO support, the women also feel that the child will be cared for.
In positing recommendations for reducing repeat pregnancies, Melissa Phillips said surgical sterilization should be encouraged.
She explained that the procedure, medically referred to as “Tubile Ligation”, closes off the fallopian tubes, preventing sperms from reaching the egg.
Since repeat pregnancies in HIV-infected women indicate that partners are unaware of their status, Phillips said disclosure will help men make informed decisions on if they want to expose themselves to the virus.
Phillips said women who encounter difficulty in securing spousal support must also decide whether they are comfortable raising more children.
Agrippa, who is employed as a Childcare Councillor, said that he has also had to deal with the loss of a younger sister to HIV/AIDS.6 “We must examine the impact on children and how to deal with siblings who are infected,” Agrippa said.
He told the participants that the aim of the session was to create a better understanding of why women living with HIV have repeat pregnancies.
Agrippa lamented the destablising role of stigma and discrimination in reducing the spread.
“We tend to judge people by spots on their skins and how they look.”
However, Agrippa stressed that people living with HIV are no longer dreadful eyesores to the public.
He underscored the need to be brutally honest with friends and relatives concerning their sexual habits.
Romel Richmond, who dealt with HIV in Guyana, revealed that the first reported case was in 1987.
Since then, over thousands of people have been infected by the disease.
He said that the virus is mainly affecting people ages 15-49. According to Richmond, heterosexual acts account for more than 70 percent of HIV-infection.
Quoting health statistics, Richmond noted that the disease is multiplying rapidly in women ages 15 to 24.
Region Four accounts for the highest number of infections with Region Ten rating second in the country.
Up to five years ago, more than 11,000 children had already been infected by the virus.
Richmond stated that Guyana has the second highest number of HIV statistics in the Caribbean; second only to Haiti.
During her presentation, Natasha Dundas related that with the advent of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), it is hoped that the infection rate in children will be significantly reduced.
HIV can be passed on from the mother to her child through pregnancy, labour, during delivery or breast feeding.
Dundas said the PMTCT programme promotes improved blood safety, family planning and protects against STI and sub-infections.
According to Dundas, government has established strategies to prevent unintended pregnancies.