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Abortions in pregnant HIV positive women

Dec 2, 1998

Should a pregnant woman be advised to have an abortion when she is HIV positive? Reasons for yes and no.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. Regardless of whether a woman has HIV or not, the abortion issue is an extremely controversial one. It is not my position to tell a woman whether she should have an abortion or not. The decision on whether she should have an abortion depends on many things including (but not limited to):

1) Her personal feelings about the abortion issue, which can include her religious beliefs, cultural beliefs, etc.

2) The fathers feelings about the abortion issue, which can include his religious beliefs, cultural beliefs, etc.

3) The risks that the parents are willing to take that the child will be infected. Without any medical intervention, about 25% of babies born to HIV positive mothers will become infected with the virus. With medical intervention, this can be reduced down to about 8%. Some parents are willing to take this 8-25% chance. Other parents are not.

4) The stage of pregnancy the woman is in. Abortions are most often done during the early stages of pregnancy, rather than the latter stages of pregnancy.

5) Legal considerations. In some places, having an abortion may not be legal (depending on the country the woman is in).

Just like any other medical procedure, I always suggest that a woman always make an informed decision, and understand all of her options. For a woman to make this decision, she may consider discussing this issue with her doctor, the babies father, her friends, her family, her pastor/priest/rabbi, other HIV positive women who have been in the same situation (for example women in an HIV support group), and other people she feels comfortable talking to.

The decision regarding whether to have an abortion or not ultimately depends on clinical considerations (medical risks to the mother and child), and personal considerations (personal beliefs on the abortion issue, religious beliefs, cultural beliefs, etc.). An informed decision is very important in deciding to have any medical procedure.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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