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POTENTIAL INITIATORS OF HIV-RELATED STIGMATIZATION: ETHICAL AND PROGRAMMATIC CHALLENGES FOR PMTCT PROGRAMS

Authors


Viva C. Thorsen, IASAM, Deptartment of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, PO Box 1130, Blindern N-0318, Oslo, Norway. v.c.thorsen@medisin.uio.no

ABSTRACT

HIV/AIDS continues to constitute a serious threat to the social and physical wellbeing of African mothers and their babies. In the hardest hit countries of sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of all new HIV infections are occurring in women, infants and young children. Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) constitutes 90% of new HIV infections among infants and young children. Most of these infections can be prevented. However, the social stigma of HIV/AIDS insidiously continues to undermine the success of prevention programs.

Ironically, some attributes or characteristics of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs may in fact serve as catalysts to the stigmatization process. This paper identifies and discusses six potential initiators: (1) Routine HIV testing, (2) Six months exclusive breastfeeding, (3) Incentives, (4) Home visits, (5) Location of PMTCT program, and (6) PMTCT terminology. In all these areas, there are practical strategies that may be applied to reduce the chances of being stigmatized. These strategies are introduced and discussed.

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