Hong Kong Pregnant Women in Favor of Universal HIV Testing
Pregnant women in Hong Kong support HIV screening to prevent transmitting the virus to babies, according to a study presented yesterday at the seventh Western Pacific Congress of Chemotherapy and Infectious Disease. In a pilot study providing "pre-test group counselling" and HIV information to 5,597 women at Hong Kong-based Kwong Wah Hospital, 97.5% of participants agreed to be tested. Among the 124 who declined screening, 27 said they had previously been tested, 36 felt they were at low risk for contracting the virus and 28 felt the test was unnecessary. Among women who agreed to be tested, three were found to be HIV-positive, yielding an incident rate of 0.05%. Professor Lau Yu-lung, chair of the University of Hong Kong pediatrics department, said the study indicates that "Hong Kong women are really very open-minded and they would like to be tested." The Advisory Council on AIDS, of which Lau is a committee member, has proposed a universal screening program, stating in a draft proposal, "The fact that effective treatment is available to help prevent an incurable infection argues strongly for testing of all antenatal mothers for HIV." However, the South China Morning Post notes that the Hong Kong government "remains uncertain" about a proposal to have all pregnant women tested. Lau said at the conference, "The problem is to convince public policy makers that it's worthwhile to do screening. Every infected baby born is a missed prevention opportunity" (Benitez, South China Morning Post, 12/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.