Open Access Open Badges Research article

Policy maker and health care provider perspectives on reproductive decision-making amongst HIV-infected individuals in South Africa

Jane Harries1*, Diane Cooper1, Landon Myer23, Hillary Bracken4, Virginia Zweigenthal1 and Phyllis Orner1

Author Affiliations

1 Women's Health Research Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Anzio Road, Observatory, 7925, Cape Town, South Africa

2 Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

3 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, USA

4 Population Council, New York, USA

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:282  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-282

Published: 5 October 2007



Worldwide there is growing attention paid to the reproductive decisions faced by HIV-infected individuals. Studies in both developed and developing countries have suggested that many HIV-infected women continue to desire children despite knowledge of their HIV status. Despite the increasing attention to the health care needs of HIV-infected individuals in low resource settings, little attention has been given to reproductive choice and intentions. Health care providers play a crucial role in determining access to reproductive health services and their influence is likely to be heightened in delivering services to HIV-infected women. We examined the attitudes of health care policy makers and providers towards reproductive decision-making among HIV-infected individuals.


In-depth interviews were conducted with 14 health care providers at two public sector health care facilities located in Cape Town, South Africa. In addition, 12 in-depth interviews with public sector policy makers and managers, and managers within HIV/AIDS and reproductive health NGOs were conducted. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach.


Providers and policy makers approached the issues related to being HIV-infected and child bearing differently. Biomedical considerations were paramount in providers' approaches to HIV infection and reproductive decision-making, whereas, policy makers approached the issues more broadly recognizing the structural constraints that inform the provision of reproductive health care services and the possibility of "choice" for HIV-infected individuals.


The findings highlight the diversity of perspectives among policy makers and providers regarding the reproductive decisions taken by HIV-infected people. There is a clear need for more explicit policies recognizing the reproductive rights and choices of HIV-infected individuals.