HIV+ women want to become mothers to overcome the stigma attached to the disease.
The team of researchers led by Julianne Serovich, professor and chair of human development and family science at Ohio State examined the questionnaire of 74 women who were a part of a larger, long-term study that studied women's HIV disclosure decisions and mental health.
The participants were found to be talking about pregnancy or becoming pregnant. Even health care professionals shared stories with researchers about the women's success in avoiding transmission of the HIV virus to their babies.
"We shouldn't assume that women aren't going to become pregnant or don't want to become pregnant now that they have HIV. That's an erroneous assumption," said Serovich.
"Clinicians should be routinely discussing pregnancy with HIV-positive women of childbearing age."
"It became obvious that this is a disease that is manageable for women," said lead study author Shonda Craft, who completed the research while she was a doctoral candidate at Ohio State.
"If a woman is 19 years old and diagnosed with HIV, she can still assume she has her whole life ahead of her. Deciding whether to have a family is part of the development process for young women, including these young women," said Craft.
The participants were also asked to quantify how influential several factors were on their decision about whether or not to become pregnant after their HIV diagnosis.
The findings revealed that age emerged was a major factor in the choice. Nearly 40 percent of women age 30 and younger chose to become pregnant while 11 percent of the women over 30 opted for pregnancy.
The external factors on women's choices against pregnancy were fear of transmitting HIV to a child or other concerns about preserving their own health.
Michael Brady, professor and chair of pediatrics at Ohio State and a co-investigator on the study's funding grant said that the medical community has found ways to reduce health risks for both HIV infected mother and her child.
"Women who are HIV-positive should receive antiretroviral medications throughout their pregnancy and during labour, and their newborns should receive antiretroviral medication for the first six weeks of life, " he said
"Delivery by Caesarean section also can reduce risk of transmission of the virus to the infant said Brady.
The team also found women who had the most negative self-image associated with their HIV status were also the most likely to want to become pregnant.
For some women who feel highly stigmatized by their disease, the rewards of pregnancy might offer therapeutic benefits, the researchers suggest.
The study appears in journal AIDS and Behaviour