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Keywords:

  • developing world;
  • gender;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • informed consent;
  • rights;
  • reproduction

ABSTRACT

Global debates in approaches to HIV/AIDS control have recently moved away from a uniformly strong human rights-based focus. Public health utilitarianism has become increasingly important in shaping national and international policies. However, potentially contradictory imperatives may require reconciliation of individual reproductive and other human rights with public health objectives. Current reproductive health guidelines remain largely nonprescriptive on the advisability of pregnancy amongst HIV-positive couples, mainly relying on effective counselling to enable autonomous decision-making by clients. Yet, health care provider values and attitudes may substantially impact on the effectiveness of nonprescriptive guidelines, particularly where social norms and stereotypes regarding childbearing are powerful, and where providers are subjected to dual loyalty pressures, with potentially adverse impacts on rights of service users. Data from a study of user experiences and perceptions of reproductive and HIV/AIDS services are used to illustrate a rights analysis of how reproductive health policy should integrate a rights perspective into the way services engage with HIV-positive persons and their reproductive choices. The analysis draws on recognised tools developed to evaluate health policies for their human rights impacts and on a model developed for health equity research in South Africa to argue for greater recognition of agency on the part of persons affected by HIV/AIDS in the development and content of policies on reproductive choices. We conclude by proposing strategies that are based upon a synergy between human rights and public health approaches to policy on reproductive health choices for persons with HIV/AIDS.