HIV status and treatment influence on fertility desires among women newly becoming eligible for antiretroviral therapy in western Kenya: insights from a qualitative study

Reprod Health. 2017 Aug 8;14(1):93. doi: 10.1186/s12978-017-0355-9.


Background: Factors influencing fertility desires among HIV-infected individuals remain poorly understood. With new recommendations for universal HIV treatment and increasing antiretroviral therapy (ART) access, we sought to evaluate how access to early ART influences fertility desires among HIV-infected ART-naïve women.

Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with a select subgroup of 20 HIV-infected ART-naïve women attending one of 13 HIV facilities in western Kenya between July and August 2014 who would soon newly become eligible to initiate ART based on the latest national policy recommendations. The interviews covered four major themes: 1) definitions of family and children's role in community; 2) personal, interpersonal, institutional, and societal factors influencing fertility desires; 3) influence of HIV-positive status on fertility desires; and 4) influence of future ART initiation on fertility desires. An iterative process of reading transcripts, applying inductive codes, and comparing and contrasting codes was used to identify convergent and divergent themes.

Results: The women indicated their HIV-positive status did influence-largely negatively-their fertility desires. Furthermore, initiating ART and anticipating improved health status did not necessarily translate to increased fertility desires. Instead, individual factors, such as age, parity, current health status, financial resources and number of surviving or HIV-infected children, played a crucial role in decisions about future fertility. In addition, societal influences, such as community norms and health providers' expectations of their fertility desires, played an equally important role in determining fertility desires.

Conclusions: Initiating ART may not be the leading factor influencing fertility desires among previously ART-naïve HIV-infected women. Instead, individual and societal factors appear to be the major determinants of fertility desires among these women.

Keywords: ART-naïve; Fertility desires; HIV-infected women; Kenya.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women / psychology*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents