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Homearrow News and Events Year 2010 HIV-positive woman denied timely abortion - Times of India

HIV-positive woman denied timely abortion - Times of India

CHENNAI: Ever since 28-year-old Seetha (name changed) discovered that she was HIV positive, she has been pleading with doctors for an abortion. Today, at 19 weeks of pregnancy, she is likely to lose the chance of legal medical termination. The law permits voluntary termination of pregnancies only up to 20 weeks. So far she has knocked on the doors of at least two Chennai Corporation maternity hospitals and two government hospitals, but all in vain.

While the corporation hospitals said they could not do the termination as "they are not allowed to terminate pregnancies for positive women", doctors at Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) said they decided to wait until the 21st week of pregnancy for her haemoglobin levels to improve.

"According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, if the pregnancy is above 20 weeks, doctors cannot abort the baby unless there is a case of lethal abnormality, and HIV/AIDS is not one such exception," says Dr Jayashree Gajaraj, consultant gynecologist, Apollo Specialty Hospitals. After the 28th week, the baby has to be delivered.

Seetha was confirmed pregnant by Corporation's Maraimalai Adigalar Nagar health post on February 3. The following day she and her husband were tested HIV positive.

"We told them we don't want to carry on with the pregnancy. We have a healthy 5-year-old son," says Seetha's husband Shiva (name changed), a carpenter. On February 8, they were started on anti-retroviral therapy. She was then referred to KMC.

A senior doctor said, "In this case, the woman is HIV positive and anaemic. Her haemoglobin level was 8 g/dl against the normal 12 g/dl. We are told not to handle such high-risk and complicated cases.

." Seetha was given five injections on alternate days from February 16 to 24 and admitted to KMC Hospital on March 1. "They kept her in a ward isolated from others. I had no mattress. Nurses hesitated to care for me as I was positive," she said. She was transfused one unit of blood. "Then they said the medicines required for abortion were not available. We bought them for Rs 700 from a nearby pharmacy," says Seetha, showing the bills.

On March 8 and 9, two doses of misoprostol the drug that is used to induce labour and expel the foetus was administered. She was discharged on March 11 as she did not expel the foetus. She was asked to come back to the hospital on March 26. Gynecologists point out that discharging patients after administering misoprostol could lead to medical complications like infections including sepsis.

A scan done on March 13 at Aynavaram corporation hospital shows she is 19 weeks pregnant. "Doctors told me I can't get my baby aborted legally and that government hospitals will not do it after March 26," she said.

KMC dean Dr V Kanakasabai said, "Doctors probably thought it would complicate her medical condition. We did not think of the legal problem at that time."

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