Pregnant Women Reluctant to Be Tested For HIV/AIDS

Knowing beforehand whether or not a pregnant women is infected with HIV/AIDS is a key factor in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the disease. Nothing can be sadder than watching children slowly and painfully wither away. It becomes heartbreakingly painful when taking into consideration the fact that with the help of HIV/AIDS testing, this needn’t be the case. However, an alarming number of pregnant women in Africa have been found to be reluctant to take an HIV/AIDS test1.

It has been known for quite some time now that pregnant women that are tested for HIV can be treated with a regimen that prevents mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). The latest guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that should a pregnant mother be diagnosed with HIV, she should start her PMTCT regimen as early as 14 weeks into her pregnancy and follow it strictly until the birth of her child. If these guidelines are strictly adhered to the chances of a baby being born infected are very low.

So, why are the mothers not taking this life-saving choice? A few reasons:

  • The mothers feel physically fit and do not think that they need to take the test.
  • The pregnant mothers fear that should they test positive for HIV/AIDS, it could lead to stigma and their marriages breaking down as the couple blame one another for contracting the disease.
  • The women are already well advanced in their pregnancies, making it too late for an effective PMTCT treatment and putting their babies at risk.

According to one study by Larsson et al.2, in Uganda there has been an opt-out policy of HIV testing since 2006. And as of 2007, fewer than 60% of pregnant women were tested for HIV. There is another program in place to screen for syphilis during pregnancy that also faces the risk of becoming resistant to common treatments. According to the same study, when women attend these antenatal clinics, they actually go out of their way to avoid places where HIV tests are done3. While still unconfirmed, should these study results have even a fraction of truth to them, it could only be an indicator of how bad a picture exists in the fight against mother-to-child transmission.

  1. The Standard:
  2. AIDS, Official Journal of the IAS:
  3. EurekaAlert!:
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