Safer sex and reproductive choice: findings from "positive women: voices and choices" in Zimbabwe

Reprod Health Matters. 2003 Nov;11(22):162-73. doi: 10.1016/s0968-8080(03)02284-5.


Positive Women: Voices and Choices was an advocacy-research project developed by the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS to explore the impact of HIV/AIDS on women's sexual and reproductive lives, challenge the violation of their rights and advocate improvements in policy and services. The project in Zimbabwe, the first one in three countries, was carried out from 1998 to 2001. This article presents selected findings from the Zimbabwe research report. It shows that HIV-positive women were unaware they were at risk before an HIV diagnosis, and that gender norms and economic dependence on husbands/partners restricted women's ability to control their sexual and reproductive lives. Prejudices that HIV-positive women should not be sexually active or have children meant women did not disclose their status to health workers, making it difficult for their needs to be acknowledged or addressed. Condom use was considered inappropriate in marriage. Younger childless women wanted to become pregnant, often in spite of previous miscarriage and stillbirths. Women with several children wanted to avoid further pregnancies, and contraceptive and condom use increased markedly after HIV diagnosis, especially among those attending support groups. Safe abortion was almost entirely inaccessible, though technically the law would have permitted it. Better economic opportunities for women, and integrated pregnancy and delivery care, family planning, STI and HIV-related services are needed which take account of HIV-positive women's needs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Contraception / methods
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / psychology*
  • HIV Seropositivity / transmission
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Behavior / psychology*
  • Safe Sex / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral
  • Women's Rights*
  • Zimbabwe