Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
KUMAR, Alok and BENT, Valmay. Characteristics of HIV-infected childbearing women in Barbados. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2003, vol.13, n.1, pp. 1-9. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892003000100001.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the demographic profile, social and family characteristics, and life style traits of HIV-infected childbearing women in the Caribbean nation of Barbados in comparison to a control group of HIV-negative women. METHODS: Data for this report were drawn from the Pediatrics HIV Surveillance Program of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados. The data covered all HIV-infected women in the country who delivered between 1986-2000, with similar data coming from a control group of HIV-negative childbearing women. Routine information recorded during antenatal care was obtained from the women's case records. Additional data were collected from interviews with the women. RESULTS: There were 182 HIV-infected women who delivered during the study period, and a group of 202 childbearing women served as controls. In comparison to the control group, the HIV-infected women were younger, more often multiparous, and more likely to have been unemployed at the time of their pregnancy. The HIV-infected women also had had an earlier onset of sexual activity, had had more sexual partners during their lifetime, and were more likely to be involved with an older sexual partner. At the time of giving birth most of the HIV-infected women were asymptomatic for AIDS and were living with either their parents (mother or father or both) or the baby's father. In addition, at the time of their six-weeks-postnatal visit, the large majority of the HIV-infected women were involved in caring for their children. The proportion of HIV-infected women who were diagnosed prior to childbirth increased significantly over the study period, rising from 25% during 1986-1990 to 82% during 1996-2000. Slightly over one-fifth of the HIV-infected women had had one or more subsequent pregnancies after they had learned that they were infected. CONCLUSIONS: The early age of sexual activity as well as repeated pregnancies, especially from different and older partners, may have contributed significantly to both vertical and horizontal HIV transmission in Barbados. Future studies of HIV incidence and its trend among childbearing women could be important for monitoring the HIV epidemic in this country. Many of the HIV-infected childbearing women in our study were unemployed, sick, and had multiple children. Therefore, to help them to plan for and cope with the disease and also the care of their children beyond the perinatal period, there is a need to provide the women with repeated counseling with continued follow-up and, where necessary, additional economic, social, and medical support.
Keywords : Women; pregnancy; HIV infections; risk factors; Barbados.