Nursing women living with HIV in Europe

Christina Antoniadi
Registered Nurse, EATG4Women co-ordinator (European AIDS Treatment Group)

Back in September 2013 I attended my first European AIDS Clinical Society (EACS) conference. One of the presentations that I found troubling was Stigma and Discrimination in Health Care Sector in Belarus [1]. The presentation included grave results from the Belarus stigma index [2]. It also included results from further studies and training for health care workers (HCWs) that the researchers had organised and carried out the previous year. The stigma index showed that 47% of the respondents were advised not to have children while 11.4 % were coerced into sterilisation. Furthermore, although the research conducted in HCWs showed that 100% of HCWs had received some training on HIV/AIDS and universal precautions, 25% of them were still not willing to provide services to people living with HIV (PLWH), 96.4% had negative images of PLWH, and 68% would discriminate against PLWH outside their professional duties (change hairdresser if HIV positive, change schools if child’s classmate was living with HIV). I wanted to believe this was only happening in Belarus and that other countries would never allow such discriminatory practices. This particularly seemed like a death sentence for women with an HIV diagnosis. At the same time BHIVA standards in the UK were providing the following guidance: ‘People living with HIV should have access to safe, effective, and acceptable methods of fertility regulation, both for conception and contraception. Women living with HIV must be able to access appropriate healthcare services for a safe pregnancy and childbirth which provide the best chance of having a healthy infant’ [3]. That provided some relief … the problem was mostly located in Eastern Europe! Correct? Not so fast! Read more…