APHRC REPORT

Kenyans unaware of safe condomless sex with HIV+ partner

This stigma pushes couples to try medically assisted reproduction techniques while others adopt.

In Summary

•Serodiscordant couple (one HIV positive the other HIV negative) can have a healthy baby and remain uninfected.

•Prep, medically assisted conception and self insemination are some of the mechanisms used.

A patient gets tested for HIV./FILE
A patient gets tested for HIV./FILE

Most people still believe it is impossible to have sexual intercourse with a HIV positive partner without getting infected, a new report shows.

According to the report, if a woman in a serodiscordant (one HIV positive the other HIV negative) relationship gets pregnant, then both are assumed to be HIV positive.

The report released this year by African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), says this stigma pushes such couples to try medically assisted reproduction techniques while others adopt.

 
 

The couples are equally stigmatized if they opt to remain childless, considering the cultural expectation that a marriage without children is incomplete.

“Considering child bearing as a cultural expectation, those who have opted to forego it are being considered incomplete. Many cannot afford other alternatives of getting a baby,” noted the report.

The study explains the stipulated safer conception strategies which provide serodiscordant couples with a chance to conceive with little to no risk of sexual transmission.

A HIV negative partner can take Pre-Exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and restricting condomless sex to peak fertility for conception while the HIV infected partner takes Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for viral suppression.

Vaginal self-insemination for couples with HIV infected wives or medically assisted reproduction and male circumcision for HIV uninfected men are other alternatives for serodiscordant couples.

“It is therefore advised that one either uses these strategies separately or combines them since there will be reduction of HIV transmission as well as increase of pregnancy chances,” noted the study.

The document, Perceptions of pregnancy occurring among HIV-serodiscordant couples in Kenya, explores a number of stigma causing misconceptions in the community against serodiscordant couples.

 
 

A participant in the study said it is impossible to have sexual intercourse with an infected person and remain negative. She confirmed not to know of a prevention mechanism for such a couple.

She said: “If your husband is HIV positive and we see you pregnant, there is no way you can claim to be uninfected. In fact, some will assume that even my unborn child is HIV positive”.

Another participant said in his community, if a serodiscordant couple loses their child, it goes without saying that it was HIV positive.

You see some get a child and then after a short time the child dies and you hear people saying ‘a certain person is sick…,he said.

According to the study, couples whose status is unknown become victims of stigma if they fail to breastfeed their babies, the reason notwithstanding.

I have seen a girl who was not breastfeeding and people started saying that, that girl is sick, (HIV positive),reported a participant.

Despite some few couples being aware of safer conception strategies, the study posits that the demand is still low due to these misconceptions as well as ignorance on the part of the couples.

The study, conducted in Thika, was done with participants of age bracket 28 and 38. Fifteen of the male participants were HIV positive while 17 were HIV Negative. With the female participants, 26 were HIV positive and nine were HIV negative.

The study shows that 40 per cent of HIV infected Kenyans have partners who are not HIV infected. These couples have desires to have children of their own but are afraid to risk their partners health.