Number of HIV Cases Among Children Rising in Los Angeles County
Los Angeles County health officials this year have received reports of 18 new HIV cases among children, more than have been reported in any one year since 1998, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although 55 infants this year were born HIV-negative to HIV-positive mothers and none of the 18 HIV-positive children were born to an HIV-positive mother this year, health experts restated an "urgent plea" that all pregnant women be tested for HIV and that all HIV-positive pregnant women receive antiretroviral treatment to reduce the chances of vertical HIV transmission. HIV-positive women who do not receive treatment during pregnancy have a 20% to 25% chance of passing on the virus to their infants, compared to a 1% risk if the woman receives antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy and delivery and avoids breastfeeding and if her newborn infant receives treatment. California currently offers HIV testing to all pregnant women but the testing is voluntary. Assembly member Rod Wright (D) earlier this year proposed legislation that would have required HIV testing for all pregnant women, but Gov. Gray Davis (D) vetoed the bill saying that the current system "seems to be working well." Of the 18 HIV-positive children, three were born outside of the United States, three were diagnosed with HIV in another county before moving to Los Angeles and one child in his late teens may have contracted the virus through a blood transfusion. The county's Office of AIDS Programs and Policy currently has a program in which Latina and African-American women discuss the importance of HIV testing and prenatal care with women in the community (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 11/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.