As of 2009, 6,690 women in Illinois are living with HIV or AIDS.1 The CDC recommends HIV-screenings for all pregnant persons.2 Pregnant HIV-positive persons have the same rights to choose to continue a pregnancy, have an abortion, or pursue adoption. Both aspiration and medical abortion are appropriate and safe options for individuals living with HIV.
HIV-positive individuals consider abortion for the same reasons as HIV-negative persons, but may also have concerns particular to their diagnosis. A person with HIV may also choose to end a pregnancy for fear that their child will be infected or concerns that her own health will interfere with her ability to raise her child. In addition, a person with HIV may lack access to anti-retroviral treatment (ART), both to keep herself healthy and to prevent HIV transmission during pregnancy.
It is important to address an individual's concerns and to note that HIV-positive persons can have HIV-negative children. A safe pregnancy for an HIV-positive person evaluates the risk of taking ART during the pregnancy, as well as the effectiveness, availability, and cost of ART for the infant, should it be required. Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs include ART for the mother, Caesarean birth, administration of nevirapine to the newborn, and breastfeeding alternatives. These programs have reduced the risk of perinatal transmission from more than 30% to 8%. Nationally, perinatal HIV transmission declined from more than 800 instances in 1992 to an estimated 141 in 2008. Thus, with appropriate medical care, treatment, and support services, mother-to-child transmission has been virtually eliminated.
Other Sexually Transmitted Infections
Most abortion appointments include mandatory STI testing in order to provide the best medical care and a safe abortion procedure. Many people with STIs are asymptomatic and do not realize they are infected. Carrying an STI may lead to post-abortion complications and infections, such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, abscess formation and chronic pelvic pain. The presence of an STI requires taking an antibiotic if not already prescribed and careful awareness during the abortion procedure. Health and social service providers can counsel individuals to expect testing and appropriate treatment as part of their care.