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Safe abortion rights are a matter of health and justice for women living with HIV

Updated: Apr 19

December 1 marks World AIDS Day, a disease that affects more than 38 million people worldwide, 52% of whom are women. Women living with HIV face multiple challenges and discrimination, both because of their gender and HIV status. One of these challenges is access to safe abortion, a fundamental human right that allows them to make decisions about their bodies, their health, and their lives.

Safe abortion is an essential health service. According to the Guttmacher Institute, some 73 million abortions are performed worldwide each year, 45% of which occur under unsafe conditions. These unsafe abortions cause up to 13.2% of maternal deaths. Doctors Without Borders stresses that unsafe abortion is one of the five leading causes of maternal mortality, and the only preventable one. These figures are even more alarming in countries where abortion is restricted or criminalized, and where women living with HIV have fewer options and resources to access safe abortion.

Women living with HIV have the same right as anyone else to decide whether or not to continue with a pregnancy. However, many of them face legal, social, economic, and health barriers that limit their reproductive autonomy. Some of these barriers are:

  • Stigmatization and discrimination by society, family, partners, and health personnel, who judge, reject, or violate their rights for their decision to have an abortion.

  • Lack of information and counseling about their rights, their options, and the risks and benefits of each abortion method.

  • Lack of access to quality, confidential, and respectful health services that offer them a safe abortion, with medication or surgical procedures, depending on their preference and clinical situation.

  • Lack of psychosocial and emotional support to help them cope with the abortion process and to prevent or treat possible complications or sequelae.

  • Lack of legal protection, which exposes them to criminal, civil, or administrative sanctions, or to the violation of their privacy or intimacy.

Barriers that can kill

These barriers not only violate the right to safe abortion for women living with HIV, but also put their health and lives at risk. Unsafe abortion can lead to infection, bleeding, perforation, infertility, or death. In addition, women living with HIV may be at greater risk of adverse abortion outcomes compared to HIV-uninfected women due to immunosuppression, high rates of co-infection with other sexually transmitted infections, and possible contraindications between medications used for medical abortion and antiretroviral therapy regimens.

Safe abortion is a human right that should be guaranteed for all people. People living with HIV have the right to make decisions about their bodies, their health, and their lives, without being discriminated against, stigmatized, or criminalized.

Access to safe abortion is a matter of health and justice for women living with HIV, which contributes to improving their quality of life and reducing maternal mortality. For this reason, Vitala Global wants to create awareness about the elimination of legal, social, economic, and health barriers that impede access to safe abortion for women living with HIV, and work towards the provision of comprehensive, respectful, and quality care that responds to their needs and preferences. On World AIDS Day, we demand the right to safe abortion as a way to promote the health and dignity of women living with HIV.

For more information and resources about abortion, you can download our Aya Contigo App for the US and contact us through our social channels: Instagram, LinkedIn.

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