Oklahoma Implements ‘Routine’ HIV Testing of Pregnant Women
The Oklahoma State Department of Health has revised its maternity clinic guidelines "to make HIV part of the routine panel of tests" for pregnant women, according to a letter written by the department's acting director, Jerry Regier, and sent to U.S. Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Regier states this decision is a "major step toward managing HIV/AIDS as a medical condition and less as a social issue." Saying that "mandatory HIV testing at time of birth has not become a reality in Oklahoma," he notes that a woman "can refuse any test." The need for mandatory testing has not taken hold in Oklahoma partly because the state has "extremely low perinatal HIV numbers" in addition to a "relatively low" overall incidence of HIV and AIDS cases. The state currently reports 2,200 HIV-positive individuals and an "additional 1,400 diagnosed with AIDS"; of these, women make up 16% and 10% of cases, respectively. To encourage routine HIV testing, the department will publish articles in state medical journals, send letters to all Oklahoma physicians and have its staff "encourag[e] routine testing during all direct communications with physicians and laboratories." Regier concludes, "We will continue to work toward our goal of having every pregnant woman and her physician know her HIV status prior to delivery" (OSDH letter, 12/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.