University of Oldenburg, Germany.
Title: Stigma and childbearing: Experiences of HIV- positive women in Cameroon
Biography: Joyceline Ntoh Yuh
The impact of HIV/AIDS continues to be felt, affecting other spheres of life fueled by high levels of stigmatization in Africa. Stigma eventually hampers the fight against HIV from barriers to Voluntary Counselling and testing, hinders disclosure, to non-adherence to treatment. Research shows that one of the main factors fueling HIV related stigma is the sexual nature of the disease which is often attributed to immorality and promiscuity which becomes gendered because culturally women are expected to live a morally up right life. In the face of HIV, women are blamed for contracting the disease and transmitting it to others. Stigma results into negative effects on motherhood which is perceived as the pinnacle of womanhood meanwhile, procreation is associated with status, cultural and religious connotations in Cameroon. The study examined HIV stigma from a socio-cultural perspective considering research mostly focused on medical aspects of the disease. Thus, the study assessed how stigma affects women in relation to childbearing. In-depth interviews were conducted to examine the experiences and perceptions of these women alongside their coping strategies. Results indicated that women living with HIV had challenges making informed decisions; fear infecting their partners, discouraged by some medical staff, in so doing, altering their socio-cultural aspirations and right to motherhood. This is complicated by external societal pressure that compares motherhood to good womanhood. Furthermore, their perceptions about childbearing are greatly affected by societal discourses and HIV stigma. A holistic approach is vital in addressing this pertinent issue among various stakeholders and health facilities considering HIV incidence is peculiar among young women aged 18-30 years, which coincides with their peak reproductive years.