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Women Facing Stigma: The Parallel Between Zika and HIV


Carmen Zorrilla, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Puerto Rico, School of Medicine, discusses the social stigma surrounding Zika- and HIV- positive women.
Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)
“I think there’s a parallel between Zika and HIV not because they are similar viruses or any of that, but the social impact and our response. There’s stigma; the pregnant women with Zika infection do not disclose. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of you to judge them [and say], ‘why did you get Zika? Weren’t you using condoms? Weren’t you using mosquito repellent? You did not take care of yourself.’
[These women] are afraid of being blamed [for] getting Zika. They are afraid, of course, of having a baby with a disability. That’s also part of the concern of any pregnant woman as well, the health of the baby. I’ve had [female patients] whose partners abandoned them because they found out that they had Zika, and so, there’s stigma. There’s a lot of concern, communication is not clear. People have a lot of misperceptions about Zika.
It is not the same, absolutely. HIV and Zika [are] not the same. But, I think Zika concerns me because it causes birth defects. That’s the main issue with Zika, it causes birth defects, and this is why it is something that we need to make sure that we can control. We need treatments, we need vaccines, we need vector control, we need to make sure that women get access to contraception, access to healthcare, access to prenatal care, and access to quality healthcare.”
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