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Reprod Health Matters. 2005 May;13(25):129-35.

Maternal health and HIV.

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Perinatal HIV Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.


The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the major factors affecting women's health, with 20 million women living with HIV and more than two million pregnancies in HIV-positive women each year. Most HIV infections in women are in resource-constrained settings where the risk of maternal morbidity and mortality is also unacceptably high, and where most of the 529,000 deaths from complications of pregnancy, childbirth and abortion occur annually. There is increasing evidence that HIV/AIDS-related maternal deaths are escalating considerably, and AIDS has overtaken direct obstetric causes as the leading cause of maternal mortality in some areas of high HIV prevalence. As the availability of antiretroviral treatment becomes more widespread, pregnant women who qualify for antiretroviral treatment should be considered as a priority group for access to treatment. Successful strategies to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV are in place in developed countries but much less available in the rest of the world. A more comprehensive approach is needed. The current focus on preventing new infections in children must be broadened to include appropriate care for pregnant women and the prevention of new infections in women and men.

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