In the UK the number of pregnancies in women living with HIV increased dramatically over a decade but attitudes towards childbearing among women living with HIV have not been previously described. This study presents results of a survey which aimed to explore fertility intentions among women living with HIV and assess the effect of HIV treatment and interventions for prevention of vertical transmission.
Women living with HIV, aged between 16 and 49 years, attending HIV clinics in the UK between July 2003 and January 2004 were asked to complete a questionnaire. Information on demographic factors, HIV test history, pregnancy history and fertility intentions (i.e. desire to bear children) was collected. 86% of eligible women (450/521) completed the questionnaire. Three quarters of women (336/450) reported that they wanted (more) children. 45% (201/450) reported that HIV diagnosis did not affect their fertility intentions, 11% (50/450) indicated that their diagnosis made them want to try to have children sooner, and 10% (44/450) did not know or reported other views. About one third of women (155/450) decided they no longer wanted children after their HIV diagnosis, but 41% of these (59/144) had changed this perspective following advances in HIV treatment.
Factors associated with an increase in fertility intentions after advances in HIV treatment were being in a partnership and having fewer than two children. The study found the majority of women living with HIV surveyed wanted children and were more likely to want children following improvements in HIV treatment. These findings highlight the need for specialised family planning and reproductive health services targeting women living with HIV in the UK.