People living with HIV may desire children, but often lack information about safer conception and pregnancy and face barriers to obtaining high-quality reproductive health services. To inform clinical guidance that supports HIV-affected couples wanting to conceive, it is important to better understand communication between patients and providers about childbearing and safer-conception guidelines for people living with HIV.
In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 providers of HIV-related services in seven health facilities in Iringa, Tanzania, and with 60 HIV-positive women and men attending study facilities. The study followed an iterative research process and used thematic content analysis.
Providers reported that they had received limited training on childbearing and safer conception for HIV-positive people, and that clinical guidance in Tanzania on the subject is poor. Although many providers mentioned that people living with HIV have the right to bear children, some HIV-positive patients reported having been discouraged by providers from having more children. Only a few HIV-positive patients reported having learned about safer-conception strategies for HIV-affected couples through discussions with health providers.
Guidance on safer-conception and safe-pregnancy counseling for women and men living with HIV in Tanzania needs to be updated. It is critical that providers be trained in safe pregnancy and safer conception for HIV-affected couples, and that HIV and sexual and reproductive health services be integrated, so that HIV-positive patients and their partners are able to plan their pregnancies and to receive the care they need to manage their health and their pregnancies.
Haneefa T. Saleem was a doctoral candidate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, at the time this article was written. Pamela J. Surkan is associate professor, Deanna L. Kerrigan is associate professor and Caitlin E. Kennedy is associate professor—all at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.