Many Malawian Pregnant Women Choose Not to Be Tested for HIV Because of Stigma Surrounding Disease, BBC News Reports
May 18, 2005
Many pregnant women in Malawi choose not to undergo HIV testing because of the social stigma surrounding the disease in the country and despite the promise of free antiretroviral drugs, BBC News reports (Sumbuleta, BBC News, 5/17). Malawi in May 2004 began a five-year, $196 million program to provide antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people nationwide at no cost. The program is funded by a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/11). As part of the program, many prenatal clinics in Malawi offer HIV testing for pregnant women, and women who refuse are offered the test again before delivery. Many hospitals then give HIV-positive women the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease, according to BBC News. However, many women are refusing to be tested because they fear their husbands or community members will shun them. Some women fear that their HIV test results might be revealed when HIV prevalence statistics are published for the country, even though the tests are confidential, according to BBC News (BBC News, 5/17). UNAIDS estimates that Malawi has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 14% and that about 84,000 Malawians died of AIDS-related causes in 2003 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/11).
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