Pregnant Teens ‘Unlikely To Pursue HIV Testing’
The mother-to-infant HIV transmission rate has declined from 25% to 3% in the United States, but the risk of transmission remains an issue for teenage girls who are at a high risk of unplanned pregnancy, who do not receive prenatal care, and who are "unlikely to pursue HIV testing," Dr. Lynne Mofenson of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said yesterday at the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in Chicago. Reuters Health reports that according to Mofenson, who wrote the NIH's guidelines for the administration of AZT during pregnancy, a treatment that has been proven to "dramatically reduce" vertical infection before, during or after delivery, 64% of teens newly infected with HIV are girls, most of whom are infected by heterosexual intercourse, with an infection rate "somewhat higher among African-American teens." Among newly infected 20- to 24-year-olds, 44% are women, whereas only 29% of the infected older adult population are women, she said. The NIH recommends universal HIV testing of all pregnant women, as it "removes the stigma from testing and also makes it easier for clinicians who are reluctant to propose testing," Mofenson explained. For women who test positive for HIV, antiretroviral therapy may greatly reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to their infants, as she notes, "Newly published studies suggest that even a month of prenatal zidovudine, followed by (taking the drug during labor) can reduce transmission by more than 50%." Furthermore, another study shows that a single dose of nevirapine during labor can reduce transmission by more than 35%, and babies can be treated with AZT "as a precautionary measure" (Reuters Health, 11/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.