Women and AIDS–Racism, Sexism, and Classism


As the number of babies with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome [hereinafter AIDS] or Human Immunodeficiency Virus [hereinafter HIV] infection rises, people question the right of HIV-infected women to bear children. This Article focuses on the reproductive freedom issues that arise in the context of AIDS and HIV infection in pregnant women and women of childbearing age. Policies to screen for and counsel pregnant women and women of childbearing age about HIV infection present enormous possibilities for abuse through involuntary testing and directive counseling to abort or to be sterilized. The issue of health policies for fertile women with AIDS or HIV infection is complicated by the fact that most women currently identified as at risk in the United States are poor and/or women of color.

It is estimated that nationwide, more than seventy percent of women with AIDS are African-American or Latina. Public health policies directed to ward fertile women with AIDS/HIV are and will be influenced by the fact that most HIV-infected women are poor women of color. Poor women of color most often receive their health care through government provided or funded facilities. Because these facilities are most likely to deal repeatedly with HIV-infected pregnant women, women of childbearing age, and babies, they will be the institutions developing and implementing HIV screening and counseling programs for women. This Article examines potential testing and counseling methodologies to be used in public institutions, and tests them for conformance with current equal protection and privacy constitutional standards.

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