Trent Newmeyer is part of a team that has received $900,000 to research HIV and pregnancy.
The Recreation and Leisure Studies professor is part of an interdisciplinary research group that examines the health of HIV positive women during preconception, pregnancy and motherhood. The study has received three-year funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
“This grant gives us an opportunity to secure and expand our research holistically to include all aspects of family building,” Newmeyer said. “We have an opportunity to help women have healthy pregnancies and start families.”
The project has a number of co-investigators from medical, community, and social science perspectives. It addresses a wide range of issues regarding people with HIV having healthy pregnancies and building families.
Newmeyer is investigating the socio-cultural factors involved in pregnancy planning.
“My role is to interview women living with HIV to understand the cultural and family pressures to have children and their motivations to bring children into the world,” Newmeyer said.
“Women living with HIV on cART (combination anti-retroviral therapy) are living long and healthy lives, so the idea of starting a family is attractive to many. Unfortunately, not everyone (including many in the medical field) is aware of the pregnancy care breakthroughs that reduce transmission from mother-to-child to less than one per cent.”
This grant will help peer research assistants (other women living with HIV) conduct interviews.
“This approach to research allows the HIV community to shape and guide the research,” he said. “It gets the HIV community actively involved in collecting more detailed and relevant results for analysis and policy change.”
In recent years, the number of Ontario fertility clinics accepting clients with HIV has grown from one (based in London) to seven. This research will help form a national program of research, teaching, mentoring and knowledge translation for the HIV community around family building, including pregnancy, surrogacy and adoption.
Newmeyer’s research focuses on the sociocultural aspects of HIV, including stigma and pregnancy planning. He will soon publish an article exploring couples’ experiences with “sperm washing,” a process that allows men living with HIV to reproduce without horizontal transmission of the virus to their HIV-negative female partners. He also studies women living with HIV in Ontario, particularly outside of the GTA, and their intentions and motivation for pregnancy.
“It is personally rewarding to be a part of this research and the policy change that has resulted,” Newmeyer said. “HIV used to be so connected to death and dying, and now it is about life and living.”