Relationships matter: contraceptive choices among HIV-positive women in Tanzania

Document Type



Family Medicine (East Africa)


Efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Tanzania are guided by a four-prong strategy advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Prong 2, prevention of unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, has, however, received the least attention and contraceptive use to prevent unintended pregnancies remains low. This study explored the perceived barriers to the use of modern methods of contraception, and factors influencing contraceptive choice among HIV-positive women in urban Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. A qualitative multi-site study was conducted, utilising in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with 37 sexually active HIV-positive women aged between 20 and 44 years, attending three health facilities within Dar-es-Salaam. The theoretical framework was a patient centred model. Four barriers were identified: the influence of the women's spousal relationships; personal beliefs and the relationship of these in understanding her disease; the influence of the social demands on the woman and her relationships; and the importance of a woman's relationship with her healthcare provider/healthcare system. Being the bearers of bad news (HIV-positive status) the pregnant women experienced conflicts, violence, abandonment and rejection. The loss in negotiating power for the women was in relation to their intimate partners, but also in the patient-healthcare provider relationship. The role of the male partner as a barrier to contraceptive use cannot be understated. Therefore, the results suggest that healthcare providers should ensure patient-focused education and provide support that encompasses the importance of their relationships. Additional research is required to elucidate the functional association between contraceptive choices and personal and social relationships.

Publication (Name of Journal)

African Journal of AIDS Research