August 12, 2016

The HIV Trap: A Woman’s Lack Of Control

Written by Michaeleen Doucleff

This article originally appeared on NPR.

When you’re pregnant, going to the doctors can be exciting. You get to find out if you’re having a boy or a girl. Maybe hear the baby’s heart beat.

But in southern Africa, many women find out something else.

Allison Groves at American University recently ran a study in a town outside Durban, South Africa. They followed about 1,500 pregnant women. The results left her speechless.

“Thirty-eight percent of the women tested positive for HIV during pregnancy, which is just intense,” Groves says. “And that is typical. It wasn’t like we were only capturing very high risk women.”

In fact, these women seemed like the least likely to get HIV. Most were married or in a committed relationship. Many said they were faithful.

How did so many of them get infected? Groves says they’re not quite sure, but they have a clue: During the women’s pregnancies — or right afterward, when their babies were tiny infants — 40 percent of them were abused. They were hit, beaten, threatened, emotional abused or even raped.

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