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Achieving pregnancy safely for HIV-serodiscordant couples: a social ecological approach

Haneefa T Saleem, Manjulaa Narasimhan, Julie A Denison, Caitlin E Kennedy


The recognition and fulfilment of the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of all individuals and couples affected by HIV, including HIV-serodiscordant couples, requires intervention strategies aimed at achieving safe and healthy pregnancies and preventing undesired pregnancies. Reducing risk of horizontal and vertical transmission and addressing HIV-related infertility are key components of such interventions. In this commentary, we present challenges and opportunities for achieving safe pregnancies for serodiscordant couples through a social ecological lens. At the individual level, knowledge (e.g. of HIV status, assisted reproductive technologies) and skills (e.g. adhering to antiretroviral therapy or pre-exposure prophylaxis) are important. At the couple level, communication between partners around HIV status disclosure, fertility desires and safer pregnancy is required. Within the structural domain, social norms, stigma and discrimination from families, community and social networks influence individual and couple experiences. The availability and quality of safer conception and fertility support services within the healthcare system remains essential, including training for healthcare providers and strengthening integration of SRHR and HIV services. Policies, legislation and funding can improve access to SRHR services. A social ecological framework allows us to examine interactions between levels and how interventions at multiple levels can better support HIV-serodiscordant couples to achieve safe pregnancies. Strategies to achieve safer pregnancies should consider interrelated challenges at different levels of a social ecological framework. Interventions across multiple levels, implemented concurrently, have the potential to maximize impact and ensure the full SRHR of HIV-serodiscordant couples.

Keywords: Safer conception; serodiscordant couples; social ecological models; fertility; HIV; reproductive health

(Published: 8 March 2017)

Citation: Saleem HT et al. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2017, 20 (supp 1):21331 |

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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax and Kenneth Mayer

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