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'If I Could Properly Understand and Get the Right Information': A Qualitative Study on the Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs and Rights of HIV-positive Women

Year: 2009
Working paper number: 256
Author: Cooper, Sara
Unit: ASRU
Abstract:

Women of reproductive age in South Africa are disproportionately affected by HIV and represent the fastest growing group diagnosed with the virus. Despite this epidemiological picture, very little attention has been placed on the sexual and reproductive health needs of these women, particularly in South Africa and other developing countries. This study, a sub-study of a much bigger study, explored the sexual and reproductive health needs of women newly diagnosed with HIV and how these translate into their human rights. In-depth interviews, within qualitative methodologies, were conducted and analysed with fourteen women from Cape Town, who seroconverted during the larger microbicide, Carraguard study carried out by the Population Council (USA) and University of Cape Town. This study is novel in its exploration of these issues amongst women who are newly diagnosed. The results revealed that a positive diagnosis produced a major shift in sexual and reproductive desires for these women, with respondents almost unanimously no longer wishing for children or sex. The rationale for such alterations involved four levels of meaning: fear, blame, guilt, and difficulties in negotiating safe sex. These sentiments appear to have been shaped by the lack of information afforded to them, as well as the stigmatising and ideologically laden social discourses surrounding them. The findings from this study offer insights into both the unique sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of recently diagnosed women, as well as the more general sexual and reproductive needs and rights pertaining to all HIV-positive persons, at all stages of the disease. An underlying argument throughout this paper is the need for closer attention from policy makers and health care providers in recognising and supporting the sexual and reproductive needs and rights of HIV-positive women. Recommendations are provided for meeting these needs and synergising public health goals with human rights objectives.


Publication file: WP256.pdf
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