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The consequences of a positive prenatal HIV antibody test for women.

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Department of Psychiatry, San Francisco General Hospital, University of California 94143, USA.


As more women of childbearing age are affected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), many providers have demanded routine perinatal HIV screening, arguing that the medical benefits of testing outweigh the socioeconomic, medical, and psychological risks of a positive HIV test for women. In this primarily urban poor population, we used a semistructured interview to evaluate differences in health care discrimination, economic losses, risk behaviors, relationships changes, and psychological status in 20 HIV-positive and 20 HIV-negative mothers matched for HIV risk, race, income, and delivery date. Many (35%) seropositive and no seronegative women cited health care discrimination due to HIV status. Although seropositive women reported greater satisfaction with social support from friends (100%) and family (80%), many women had not disclosed their HIV status to any friends (65%) or family (25%), indicating fear of abandonment. Only 56% of HIV positive and 44% of seronegative women knew their partners' HIV status, and many HIV-positive and HIV-negative women reported having sex without condoms after the HIV test. Mean standardized anxiety (p < 0.05) and depression scores were higher in seropositive women. Despite added social support and medical treatments, HIV-positive women showed higher levels of health care discrimination, personal isolation, and psychological sequelae than their seronegative counterparts. As the medical benefits to prenatal HIV testing increase, we will need to develop focused medical, social, and mental health services addressing the needs of HIV-positive women.

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