Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission Reduced ‘Dramatically’ in New York Since 1997 Newborn HIV Testing Law
The rate of vertical HIV transmission in New York state has decreased "dramatically" -- from 25% to 3.5% -- since the implementation of a 1997 law requiring infant HIV testing and maternal notification, the AP/Albany Times Union reports (AP/Albany Times Union, 2/12). Unveiling the data yesterday, state Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello credited the screening law, which mandates that all newborns be tested for the virus and their mothers be notified of the results, and a 1999 health department regulation that requires all pregnant women presenting for labor to be counseled about HIV and offered screening for the virus if they have not already been tested during pregnancy. Novello added that the state is "committed to bringing the rate even lower, because these are not just statistics, they are our children." New York Gov. George Pataki (R) said, "I'm proud of these results, but I'm even more grateful that because of our efforts lives are being saved, and children are being given the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, free from the ravages of an incurable disease." Prior to 1997, all infants born in the state were screened for HIV antibodies for disease-tracking purposes, but the results were "blinded" and not provided to mothers. A positive antibody test does not necessarily mean that an infant has HIV, but it does indicate that the mother is infected, and infants who do not contract the virus in utero are still susceptible if they are breastfed. The 1997 law mandated that test results and counseling be provided to mothers so they could care for their infected infants or take further steps to protect their uninfected infants from acquiring the virus (New York Department of Health release, 2/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.