HIV AND PREGNANCY: Study Supports Mandatory Testing
States must consider mandating HIV testing for pregnant women in light of recent studies showing that early zidovudine treatment dramatically decreases vertical transmission rates, says Dr. Eric Fine, chair of MedChi's Council of Public Health. Writing in Wednesday's Baltimore Sun, Fine applauds a study in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association that found a two-thirds drop in the number of infants who contracted AIDS from their mothers between 1992 and 1997, largely due to increased zidovudine treatment among HIV-positive pregnant women. Nonetheless, "[a]ction is needed," he says, noting that the study "fails to stress the importance of HIV-testing pregnant or pre-pregnant women to assure early treatment that protects the fetus." Past studies have found that nearly 45% of women who deliver HIV-positive infants are unaware of their HIV status, he says, adding that "[a]ll pregnant or pre-pregnant women must be informed about HIV risk, offered HIV testing with counseling and given the required AZT treatment to protect their unborn." As a result, he concludes, "Mandatory testing of pregnant women ... must be seriously considered. Anything less ignores the importance of this study to the health of mothers and babies and its implications for medical practice" (Fine, 8/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.