Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prevalence of HIV among childbearing women and women having termination of pregnancy: multidisciplinary steering group study.

British Medical Journal 1992; 304 doi: (Published 25 April 1992) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1992;304:1082
  1. D. J. Goldberg,
  2. H. MacKinnon,
  3. R. Smith,
  4. N. B. Patel,
  5. J. B. Scrimgeour,
  6. J. M. Inglis,
  7. J. F. Peutherer,
  8. G. E. Urquhart,
  9. J. A. Emslie,
  10. R. G. Covell
  1. Communicable Diseases (Scotland) Unit, Ruchill Hospital, Glasgow.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women, in particular those whose behaviour or that of their partners put them at "low risk" of infection. DESIGN--Voluntary named or anonymous HIV testing of pregnant women during 21 months (November 1988 to July 1990). SUBJECTS AND SETTING--All women who planned to continue their pregnancy and attended clinics serving the antenatal populations of Edinburgh and Dundee. All women admitted for termination of pregnancy to gynaecology wards serving the pregnant populations of Dundee and outlying rural areas. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Period prevalence of HIV antibody positivity. RESULTS--91% of antenatal clinic attenders and 97% of women having termination of pregnancy agreed to HIV testing on a named or anonymous basis. HIV period prevalences for antenatal clinic attenders and women having termination of pregnancy tested in Dundee were 0.13% and 0.85% respectively, and for antenatal clinic attenders tested in Edinburgh 0.26%. For those at "low risk" rates for antenatal clinic attenders and women having termination of pregnancy in Dundee were 0.11% and 0.13%, and for antenatal clinic attenders in Edinburgh 0.02%. In Dundee HIV prevalence among women having a termination of pregnancy (0.85%) was significantly greater than that among antenatal clinic attenders (0.13%). CONCLUSIONS--HIV infection is undoubtedly occurring among women at "low risk," and it is clear that a policy of selective testing of those at only "high risk" is inadequate for pregnant women living in areas of high prevalence such as Edinburgh and Dundee. Moreover, when studying pregnant populations in such areas there is the need to include those having a termination of pregnancy.