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‘It hurts, but I don't have a choice, I'm not working and I'm sick’: decisions and experiences regarding abortion of women living with HIV in Cape Town, South Africa

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Research was conducted with 36 women living with HIV in Cape Town, South Africa, regarding their decision-making about, and experiences with, abortion of unwanted pregnancies in the public health sector. Abortion intentions and decisions were explored by investigating influencing factors; knowledge of abortion policy and public health sector services; and abortion perceptions and experiences. Findings reveal that many women face censure both for becoming pregnant and terminating a pregnancy, including by family, partners, community members and healthcare providers. Data suggest that abortion may be more stigmatised than HIV despite South Africa's liberal abortion law. Generally, however, study participants were satisfied with the abortion care received. Most would advise women living with HIV to think carefully about abortion, but to make a decision in their own best interests, including only seeking care early in pregnancy from an accredited clinic. Study implications include a need to integrate information and counselling on safe legal abortion within sexual and reproductive health services, especially in efforts to integrate sexual and reproductive health into HIV care, and to forge greater linkages between HIV and abortion services more generally to ensure continuity in follow-up of care for women.
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Keywords: HIV/AIDS; South Africa; abortion; living with HIV

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Women's Health Research Unit,School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa 2: Ipas, Chapel HillNC, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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