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Psychosocial support

Psychosocial support following diagnosis

A diagnosis of HIV during pregnancy constitutes a major trauma and can potentially overshadow the joy of pregnancy and the birth of a new baby. Healthcare professionals have a key role in providing psychosocial support interventions. Women diagnosed during pregnancy have a higher incidence of mental health issues, including postnatal depression, than those diagnosed pre pregnancy. Normal family and support networks may not be available due to fear of disclosure and HIV related stigma, leaving the woman and her partner (if she has one) feeling very isolated.

The following video captures the essence of the disruption to life caused by a diagnosis of HIV in pregnancy....


Factors that may influence mental/emotional well being:

  • Attitude of healthcare professionals 
  • Fear and anxiety related to: death, transmission to others/baby, relationship, disclosure, HIV related stigma or breach of confidentiality 
  • Availability of supportive partner, family, friends 
  • Cultural differences: beliefs, customs, language barriers 
  • Prior knowledge, beliefs or experiences related to HIV
  • Social circumstances e.g housing, employment, pre existing health or lifestyle problems


Identification and referral to appropriate peer mentoring or support networks play an important role in achieving emotional well being.  Websites such as namlife and health talk online can guide people through the first few weeks and months after their diagnosis. They can also give them an insight into how other people have coped with an HIV diagnosis and how it has affected their lives. For a more personal approach, to talk with someone or meet other people who have had similar experiences, the local HIV support centre is Positive Life

Related reading

 Kelly C., Alderdice F., Lohan M. and Spence D. (2012) Creating continuity out of the disruption of a diagnosis of HIV during pregnancy Journal of Clinical Nursing 21 (11-12), 1554-1562. (