Attitudes of health-care workers toward pregnant, HIV -positive women

Donna Rochon, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The management of HIV infection with antiretroviral drugs has succeeded in increasing survival rates, but the subject of pregnancy in HIV-positive women continues to garner debate. Discrimination and stigma have been identified as barriers to health care, suggesting that women with HIV may be disinclined to seek prenatal care if health-care workers exhibit negative attitudes toward the women's pregnancies. To optimize prenatal and medical care for women with HIV infection, it is important to understand the general social conditions and cultural context in which these women have children. Goffman's treatise on stigma, Foucault's discussion of the knowledge/power matrix, and Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory offer theoretical perspectives by which we can evaluate the gender, race, and class issues that are inherent in pregnancy decision-making for women with HIV infection. It is also necessary to evaluate prevailing attitudes on childbearing toward HIV-positive women and to review the historical background of prejudice in which HIV-positive women make decisions regarding childbearing. This qualitative study used a survey instrument and one-on-one interviews with HIV-infected women to elicit their perceptions of how they were treated by care providers when they became pregnant. It also included interviews with health-care workers to determine what their feelings are about pregnancy within the context of HIV infection. Results of the ethnographic inquiry reveal that most of the women had negative experiences at some point during a pregnancy, but that the situation improved when they sought care from a provider who was familiar with HIV infection. The health-care providers interviewed were firm in their belief that HIV-positive women deserved optimal care and treated the women with respect, but these are individuals who are also experts in providing care to HIV-positive patients. The question remains as to what kind of care HIV-positive women are receiving generally and what types of attitudes they are being subjected to if they see less experienced providers. Further research is also needed to determine whether HIV-positive women from a broader ethnic representation and higher socioeconomic status experience similar negative attitudes.

Subject Area

Public health|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Rochon, Donna, "Attitudes of health-care workers toward pregnant, HIV -positive women" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3183950.