Introduction: HIV-affected women and couples often desire children and many accept HIV risk in order to attempt pregnancy and satisfy goals for a family. Risk reduction strategies to mitigate sexual and perinatal HIV transmission include biomedical and behavioural approaches. Current efforts to integrate HIV and reproductive health services offer prime opportunities to incorporate strategies for HIV risk reduction during pregnancy attempts. Key client and provider values about services to optimize pregnancy in the context of HIV risk provide insights for the design and implementation of large-scale "safer conception" programmes.
Discussion: Through our collective experience and discussions at a multi-disciplinary international World Health Organization-convened workshop to initiate the development of guidelines and an algorithm of care to support the delivery of services for HIV-affected women and couples attempting pregnancy, we identified four values that are key to the implementation of these programmes: (1) understanding fertility care and an ability to identify potential fertility problems; (2) providing equity of access to resources enabling informed decision-making about reproductive choices; (3) creating enabling environments that reduce stigma associated with HIV and infertility; and (4) creating enabling environments that encourage disclosure of HIV status and fertility status to partners. Based on these values, recommendations for programmes serving HIV-affected women and couples attempting pregnancy include the following: incorporation of comprehensive reproductive health counselling; training to support the transfer and exchange of knowledge between providers and clients; care environments that reduce the stigma of childbearing among HIV-affected women and couples; support for safe and voluntary disclosure of HIV and fertility status; and increased efforts to engage men in reproductive decision-making at times that align with women's desires.
Conclusions: Programmes, policies and guidelines that integrate HIV treatment and prevention, sexual and reproductive health and fertility care services in a manner responsive to user values and preferences offer opportunities to maximize demand for and use of these services. For HIV-affected women and couples attempting pregnancy, the provision of comprehensive services using available tools - and the development of new tools that are adaptable to many settings and follow consensus recommendations - is a public health imperative. The impetus now is to design and deliver value-driven inclusive programming to achieve the greatest coverage and impact to reduce HIV transmission during pregnancy attempts.
Keywords: HIV; couples; fertility; pregnancy; reproductive health; values; women.