HIV infection is linked to decreased fertility and fertility desires in sub-Saharan Africa due to biological and social factors. We investigate the relationship between HIV infection and fertility or fertility desires in the context of universal access to antiretroviral therapy introduced in 2004 in Rwanda.
We used data from 3532 and 4527 women aged 20–49 from the 2005 and 2010 Rwandan Demographic and Health Surveys (RDHS), respectively. The RDHSs included blood-tests for HIV, as well as detailed interviews about fertility, demographic and behavioral outcomes. In both years, multiple logistic regression was used to assess the association between HIV and fertility outcomes within three age categories (20–29, 30–39 and 40–49 years), controlling for confounders and compensating for the complex survey design.
In 2010, we did not find a difference in the odds of pregnancy in the last 5 years between HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative women after controlling for potential biological and social confounders. Controlling for the same confounders, we found that HIV-seropositive women under age 40 were less likely to desire more children compared to HIV-seronegative women (20–29 years adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.17, 0.58; 30–39 years AOR = 0.24, 95% CI: 0.14, 0.43), but no difference was found among women aged 40 or older. No associations between HIV and fertility or fertility desire were found in 2005.
These findings suggest no difference in births or current pregnancy among HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative women. That in 2010 HIV-seropositive women in their earlier childbearing years desired fewer children than HIV-seronegative women could suggest more women with HIV survived; and stigma, fear of transmitting HIV, or realism about living with HIV and prematurely dying from HIV may affect their desire to have children. These findings emphasize the importance of delivering appropriate information about pregnancy and childbearing to HIV-infected women, enabling women living with HIV to make informed decisions about their reproductive life.