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The contribution of HIV to pregnancy-related mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Calvert, Clara; Ronsmans, Carine

doi: 10.1097/QAD.0b013e32835fd940
Epidemiology and Social

Objectives: Although much is known about the contribution of HIV to adult mortality, remarkably little is known about the mortality attributable to HIV during pregnancy. In this article we estimate the proportion of pregnancy-related deaths attributable to HIV based on empirical data from a systematic review of the strength of association between HIV and pregnancy-related mortality.

Methods: Studies comparing mortality during pregnancy and the postpartum in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women were included. Summary estimates of the relative and attributable risks for the association between HIV and pregnancy-related mortality were calculated through meta-analyses. Varying estimates of HIV prevalence were used to predict the impact of the HIV epidemic on pregnancy-related mortality at the population level.

Results: Twenty-three studies were included (17 from sub-Saharan Africa). Meta-analysis of the risk ratios indicated that HIV-infected women had eight times the risk of a pregnancy-related death compared with HIV-uninfected women [pooled risk ratio 7.74, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 5.37–11.16]. The excess mortality attributable to HIV among HIV-infected pregnant and postpartum women was 994 per 100 000 pregnant women. We predict that 12% of all deaths during pregnancy and up to 1-year postpartum are attributable to HIV/AIDS in regions with a prevalence of HIV among pregnant women of 2%. This figure rises to 50% in regions with a prevalence of 15%.

Conclusion: The substantial excess of pregnancy-related mortality associated with HIV highlights the importance of integrating HIV and reproductive health services in areas of high HIV prevalence and pregnancy-related mortality.

Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK.

Correspondence to Clara Calvert, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK. Tel: +44 20 7636 8636; e-mail:

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Received December 12, 2012

Accepted February 5, 2013

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.