A qualitative exploration of HIV-positive pregnant women’s decision-making regarding abortion in Cape Town, South Africa

  • P Orner
  • M de Bruyn
  • J Harries
  • D Cooper
Keywords: HIV/AIDS, HIV-positive pregnant women, abortion, gender, South Africa


HIV-positive women’s abortion decisions were explored by: (i) investigating influencing factors; (ii) determining knowledge of abortion policy and public health services; and (iii) exploring abortion experiences. In-depth interviews were held with 24 HIVpositive women (15 had an abortion; 9 did not), recruited at public health facilities in Cape Town, South Africa. Negative perceptions towards HIV-positive pregnant women were reported. Women wanted abortions due to socio-economic hardship in conjunction
with HIV-positive status. Respondents were generally aware that women in South Africa had a right to free abortions in public health facilities. Both positive and negative abortion experiences were described. Respondents reported no discrimination by providers due to their HIV-positive status. Most respondents reported not using contraceptives, while describing their pregnancies as ‘unexpected’. The majority of women who had abortions wanted to avoid another one, and would encourage other HIV-positive women to try to avoid abortion. However, most felt abortions were acceptable for HIV-positive women in some circumstances. Data suggested
that stigma and discrimination affect connections between abortion, pregnancy and HIV/AIDS, and that abortion may be more stigmatised than HIV/AIDS. Study results provide important insights, and   any revision of reproductive health policy, services, counselling for abortion and HIV/AIDS care should address these issues.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1813-4424
print ISSN: 1729-0376