Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Over 60% of those living with HIV/AIDS are women, the majority of them in their sexual and reproductive years (UNAIDS, 2006). With antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, most of them are living longer and healthier to engage in sexual and reproductive activities (WHO, 2006). This study explored the sexual and reproductive decisions and experiences of women living with HIV/AIDS (WLWHA) in Abuja, Nigeria. Only those who became pregnant and had a child after being diagnosed with HIV participated in the study.
The study was an interview based qualitative research. The design of the interview guide was informed by the PEN-3 Model (Airhihenbuwa, 1995). A combination of purposive and snowball sampling technique was used to select 17 WLWHA aged between 26 and 41. Most of them had limited education, only the 3 of them with post secondary education had professional jobs; the rest are either housewives or petty traders.
Most of the women had reduced sexual desire but felt compelled to acquiesce to their husband’s sexual demands out of cultural and religious sense of duty, fear that he would have sex outside marriage and/or beat them. While a few used condoms, most either did not use condom or used it inconsistently. Condoms were used mainly to prevent re-infection with another strain of HIV or to prevent infecting a negative partner. Reason for non use of condom includes reduced sexual pleasure with condoms, belief that condoms are used not for wives and that being on ARV precludes the need to use condom. Often, condom negotiation leads to violence. Most of the women still wanted more children and did not use contraceptives. Among the few who used contraceptives, condoms, hormone injections, intrauterine device (IUD) and tubal ligation are their methods of choice. The women chose to have babies to secure their marriage, fulfill maternal instinct and to “leave something behind”. Their decisions were informed by the belief that ARV would keep them alive, while Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCTC) programs would prevent infection to their babies. To conceive, they had unprotected sex during ovulation. Two serodiscordant couples used syringes to inseminate. Most of them had experienced obstetric challenges including infertility, miscarriages, preterm births, and infant deaths. Most of the women bottle-fed to prevent infecting their babies, however they were under tremendous pressure to breastfeed due to the cultural value attached to breastfeeding.
Women living with HIV/AIDS in Abuja Nigeria, had unmet sexual and reproductive health needs. Their sexual and reproductive decisions were influenced by their individual circumstances, including their level of education, poverty, cultural and family influences, partner’s HIV status, stigma and discrimination, and access to PMTCT and ARV programs. To meet the sexual and reproductive health needs of WLWHA, program planners and policy makers should take these factors into consideration and ensure that programs are comprehensive and integrated.
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