Background: The prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection in the Caribbean is reported to be second only to sub Saharan Africa. HIV in pregnancy has become an increasingly important focus of attention in HIV research because of its role in contributing to spread of the infection. This study sought to establish the prevalence and risk factors associated with HIV infection among antenatal women in the northwest region of Trinidad.
Subjects and Methods: Using a cross-sectional survey design, interviews were conducted with each new pregnant attendee to the antenatal clinics in the county of St George West over a six-month period after informed consent was obtained. These women were all offered routine HIV testing in their antenatal assessment. Their HIV results were confirmed through the island’s HIV monitoring facility. The interviews included questions on demographics, known risk factors for HIV infection, mental health history and related information on their partners. Women who had refused testing were also asked to give reasons for this.
Results: There was a total of 541 women attending the clinic for the first time during the six-month period. Seven of them refused testing. Of the remaining 534 women, 37 were HIV positive (6.8%). Fourteen of the HIV positive women (37.8%) admitted to knowing of their status prior to becoming pregnant. Risk factors significantly associated with positive HIV status were early age of first sexual intercourse, a history of sexually transmitted disease, mental health problems and homelessness. Regression analysis established a history of sexually transmitted disease as the only independent predictor of HIV infection in this sample.
Conclusion: These findings reveal a high rate of HIV infection among pregnant women in northwest Trinidad and suggest that having a history of sexually transmitted disease is a key determinant of this. Prevention efforts must therefore be targeted at identifying the factors which influence this and these include early sexual activity and the experience of childhood sexual abuse.