Journal Article

The role of unintended pregnancy in internalized stigma among women living with HIV in Kenya

Background
Kenya has successfully expanded HIV treatment, but HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and unintended pregnancy remain issues for many Kenyan women living with HIV. While HIV-related stigma can influence the health seeking behaviors of those living with HIV, less is known about how reproductive health outcomes influence internalized stigma among women living with HIV.

Methods
Baseline data only were used in this analysis and came from an implementation science study conducted in Kenya from 2015 to 2017. The analytic sample was limited to 1116 women who are living with HIV, between 18 to 44 years old, and have ever experienced a pregnancy. The outcome variable was constructed from 7 internalized stigma statements and agreement with at least 3 statements was categorized as medium/high levels of internalized stigma. Unintended pregnancy, categorized as unintended if the last pregnancy was mistimed or unwanted, was the key independent variable. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression models were used to assess the association between unintended pregnancy and internalized stigma. Associations between internalized stigma and HIV-related discrimination and violence/abuse were also explored.

Results
About 48% agreed with at least one internalized stigma statement and 19% agreed with at least three. Over half of women reported that their last pregnancy was unintended (59%). Within the year preceding the survey, 52% reported experiencing discrimination and 41% reported experiencing violence or abuse due to their HIV status. Women whose last pregnancy was unintended were 1.6 times (95% CI 1.2–2.3) more likely to have medium/high levels of internalized stigma compared to those whose pregnancy was wanted at the time, adjusting for respondents’ characteristics, experiences of discrimination, and experiences of violence and abuse. Women who experienced HIV-related discrimination in the past 12 months were 1.8 times (95% CI 1.3–2.6) more likely to have medium/high levels of internalized stigma compared to those who experienced no discrimination.

Conclusions
Results suggest that unintended pregnancy is associated with internalized stigma. Integrated HIV and FP programs in Kenya should continue to address stigma and discrimination while increasing access to comprehensive voluntary family planning services for women living with HIV.