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Pregnant Women Living with HIV/AIDS: Protecting Human Rights in PMTCT Programs

As governments around the world respond to the AIDS pandemic, pregnant women are increasingly at the center of global prevention efforts. The Briefing Paper by the Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the availability of medications that can block the transmission of HIV during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period has created new opportunities to slow the spread of the virus. Governments have begun establishing programs to facilitate access to these medications for pregnant women.

These initiatives, known as Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs, enable pregnant women to reduce significantly the chances that their infants will be born with HIV.

This briefing paper addresses the fundamental human rights standards that governments must uphold in creating PMTCT programs. These standards include requirements of informed consent, provider-patient confidentiality, and health-care access without discrimination.

The briefing paper concludes with recommendations for government action to ensure that women are treated with dignity and respect through every phase of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care. If PMTCT programs fail to protect the rights of the women involved, not only will they reinforce women’s marginalization, but they will ultimately prove ineffective. (2005)

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