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“You can even possibly have a child” Reproduction in the Lives of HIV-Positive Women Donna B. Barnes, PhD. California State University, Hayward dbarnes@csuhayward.edu. AIMS How do women with HIV/AIDS make reproductive decisions?

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You can even possibly have a child reproduction in the lives of hiv positive women

“You can even possibly have a child”

Reproduction in the Lives of HIV-Positive Women

Donna B. Barnes, PhD.

California State University, Hayward


  • AIMS

  • How do women with HIV/AIDS make reproductive decisions?

  • How do race, ethnicity, and class influence decisions about reproduction?

  • How do others assist women with HIV/AIDS make reproductive decisions?


  • n = 80

  • Data collected between 1995 and 2000

  • Sample recruited from

    • Oakland, California (n=30)

    • Chicago, Illinois (n=20)

    • Rochester, New York (n=30)

  • Face-to-Face interviews

  • Community and social workers recruited women

  • Interpreter assistance available

  • Women offered $20 plus round trip bus token

  • Data analyzed using Grounded Theory qualitative methods


  • Reproduction in the Lives of Women with HIV/AIDS

  • Envisioning a Future

  • “You can save yourself. You can live a healthy life. And, you know what, it’s not even over there. You can even possibly have a child. You know, ‘cause that, when I first found out about being HIV positive, that was my whole thought. ‘I’ll never have children’.”

  • Mothering as Self-Identity and Life Affirming

  • “I wanted nothing but love. I wanted to love something from my heart, from my mind, from my soul. And that’s when I knew I wanted to have a baby.”

  • Cultural and Spiritual Beliefs

  • “But I say God is the only person that I can trust and I know that my daughter is going to be OK. I think that. And God gave me a great child, she’s normal. I’m so lucky mother cause I’m using drugs, I’m HIV positive, and I have a great daughter.”

  • Past Experiences

  • “I couldn’t take care [of] no kids then. So, I ended up even losin’ my rights for my three older kids. And then, my four year old now, is adopted - she got adopted, ‘cause I just couldn’t get it together again. I couldn’t stop usin’…. Now I can say that I treat this child like the kids that I lost. That makes me very optimistic about havin’ a child. Hopin’ that they do better than I have, in my lifetime.”


  • Women with HIV/AIDS invariably were drawn to what they viewed as the most life affirming path for the future, as a response to the threat posed by the presence of the virus. Women’s reproduction was influenced in varying configurations by their reproductive experiences, cultural and spiritual beliefs, social roles, age and health status.



Racial/Ethnic Background n = 80

Mean age = 35

Education n = 80

Annual Household Income n = 80

Sheigla Murphy, PhD

Susan Taylor-Brown, PhD

Alice Dan, PhD

Craig Sellers, MS

Dorothy Chapman

Beatrice Morris, MDiv

Ethel Gamboa, MA

Elenna Sandoval, BS

Tina Duncan, BS

Diane Beeson, PhD

Lyn Blackburn, MSW

Monica Bill Barnes, MFA

Zulma Ortiz, BS

Rebecca Denison, BA

Audrey Alforque, MA

Khalil Carter, BA

Jessica Tello, BA

Tim Smith, MA

Exposure Category n = 80



Some participants gave more than one response

This research is funded by National Institute of Health Grant 3 SO6 GM/A14135-04S1; University of Illinois at Chicago Fellowship, Center for Research on Women and Gender, funded by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Research Grant, California State University, Hayward.