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Using family planning counseling to reduce number of HIV-positive children in Africa

More news from the International AIDS Conference: Stanford researchers have presented findings showing that family planning counseling could be a cost-effective way to help minimize the number of children born HIV-positive in sub-Saharan Africa. The study involved 98 HIV-positive women - two-thirds of whom attended three 90-minute group courses on family planning, sexual negotiation, and self-esteem building. My colleague Ruthann Richter, who has been reporting from the conference, writes:

According to [Clea Sarnquist, DrPH, MPH, a senior research scholar in pediatrics] and her colleagues, about 40 percent of pregnancies in sub-Saharan Africa are unplanned. Such unwanted pregnancies could be prevented if women relied on long-acting forms of contraception — such as the intra-uterine device, or IUD, or hormonal implants — rather than birth control pills or diaphragms. Indeed, the researchers found that [three months] after receiving group counseling almost 90 percent of the HIV-positive women in the study chose a long-acting form of contraception.

The women in the study, which was conducted in a suburban region of Zimbabwe, also said they felt a greater sense of power in negotiating sexual activity, including condom use, and were more open with their partners about their HIV status, the researchers reported.

Sarnquist, who is hoping to expand the study to a larger population of women who could be followed over a longer period of time, said of the significance of this work, "If you can help prevent HIV-positive women from having unplanned children, obviously you're going to prevent unnecessary HIV transmission."

Previously: International AIDS Conference Day Four: Focusing on a vaccineInternational AIDS Conference Day Three: Daring to talk about a cure, International AIDS Conference Day Two: Hillary Clinton envisions AIDS-free generationInternational AIDS Conference: Day OneWHO’s new recommendations on contraceptive use and HIV and New book shows the pain and hope of AIDS orphans

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