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Hopkins Report: Focusing on Family Planning Lessens HIV Impact
Date:9/22/2007

BALTIMORE, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Current family planning use prevents over one million HIV-positive births worldwide each year and has great potential to further reduce the number of infants born with HIV, according to the latest issue of Population Reports, "Family Planning Choices for Women With HIV," published by the INFO Project at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs.

Women account for nearly half of the estimated 40 million people living with HIV worldwide. The majority of these women are in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are three infected women for every two infected men. An estimated one-fourth of pregnancies in sub-Saharan Africa are unintended.

In sub-Saharan Africa, family planning currently prevents an estimated 190,000 unintended HIV-infected births each year, or more than 515 HIV- infected births per day. An additional 120,000 HIV-positive births could be averted per year if all unintended pregnancies among women with HIV were prevented. These new estimates of family planning's contribution to reducing HIV were prepared by Family Health International for this issue of Population Reports.

Preventing unintended pregnancies in women with HIV is one of the most cost-effective strategies to prevent new HIV infections, according to the report. In some African countries money spent on avoiding unintended pregnancies would prevent more HIV-positive births than spending the same amount on antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis for HIV-positive women giving birth. By extension, preventing unintended pregnancies also will reduce the number of abortions and the number of children orphaned by AIDS.

To prevent pregnancy, women with HIV can safely use most contraceptive methods, with just a few exceptions. Even women using ARV therapy can choose any method available. Fears about the IUD have proved too broad. According to the latest guidance from the World Health Organization, any woman with HIV can use an IUD unless she actually has AIDS and is not well.

For women with HIV who are thinking about a baby, the new Hopkins report puts the risk in perspective. "Couples with HIV who are thinking about having children need facts on the actual risks and how to reduce the chances of HIV transmission," write authors Catherine Richey and Vidya Setty.

Without treatment, 15% to 30% of infants of women with HIV are born infected. Another 10% to 20% are infected during breastfeeding. ARV prophylaxis and appropriate feeding practices can significantly lower these chances.

"The facts in this report should reassure both HIV-care practitioners and family planning practitioners that providing family planning to women with HIV is not difficult and not dangerous," says author Catherine Richey. Co-author Vidya Setty adds, "It also should reassure practitioners that, if a woman with HIV chooses pregnancy, the risks of mother-to-child HIV transmission can be reduced if care is available, although they cannot be avoided entirely."

Family planning and HIV-care providers can use the 24-page Population Reports issue and its companion 8-page INFO Reports issue, "Women and HIV: Questions Answered," to:

-- Understand how HIV affects women's reproductive health,

-- Learn the latest evidence behind global guidance on family planning

methods for women with HIV, and

-- Help women with HIV think through the risks of childbearing and learn

how to reduce these risks.

Find These Reports and Related Resources Online:

The full-text version of this Population Reports issue is available at http://www.infoforhealth.org/pr/l15/l15.pdf

The full-text version of the INFO Reports companion issue is available at http://www.infoforhealth.org/inforeports/women_hiv/womenhiv.pdf

Highlights of these and other INFO Project publications are also available as PowerPoint Presentations, which you can download and use to prepare talks and presentations, at http://www.infoforhealth.org/pr/powerpoints.shtml

Join the authors in a blog discussion September 24 through October 5, 2007: http://www.infoforhealth.org/blog/

To order this latest Population Reports issue and its companion INFO Reports issue in print, go to http://www.jhuccp.org/cgi-bin/orders/orderform.cgi. For a listing of all Population Reports issues online, go to http://www.populationreports.org. Population Reports is published three times a year in English, French, and Spanish by the INFO Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs. The INFO Project receives support from the US Agency for International Development.


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