By the end of 1991, 1,952 women in the UK had been found to have antibodies to the human immunodeficiency virus. These are women who have come forward for HIV testing and there is general agreement (e.g. Peckham and Newell 1990) that they represent only a small proportion of the total number of women in the UK infected with HIV. More than 90 per cent of women who are known to be HIV positive are of child-bearing age (see Table 4.1) and many have not yet started or completed their families.
Anonymous antenatal screening tests carried out in 1991 found that only 1 in 16,000 pregnant women in the UK was infected with HIV but in some areas of London as many as 1 pregnant woman in 220 was infected (Medical Research Council 1991). In the same year it was found that the prevalence of HIV infection in women who had just given birth in Edinburgh was 2.5 per 1,000, in Dundee 1.4 per 1,000 and in Aberdeen 0.7 per 1,000 (Tappin et al. 1991). A similar study carried out in London provides evidence of a rising HIV prevalence among childbearing women; the prevalence of HIV infection in recently delivered mothers in inner London had risen from
Table 4.1 Age distribution of HIV-antibody positive women at time of test: UK up to 31.12.90
No. of women with HIV infection*
55 or over
* Table excludes 102 women where age was not stated.
Source: Adapted from Communicable Disease Report (1991) 1(10):46