California Legislature Passes Bill Calling for Routine HIV Testing of Pregnant Women; Bill Goes to Gov. Davis
The California Assembly on Friday passed a bill (AB 1676) that would make HIV testing a routine part of prenatal care, the Oakland Tribune reports (Oakland Tribune, 9/13). The bill, introduced by Assembly member John Dutra (D), would require physicians to include HIV testing in a battery of tests performed on pregnant women and provide counseling for women who find out that they are HIV-positive. In addition, the measure would require the state Department of Health Services in conjunction with the Office of AIDS and other organizations to develop by the end of next year "culturally sensitive informational material concerning HIV testing" (AB 1676 text, 9/14). The CDC in April issued new recommendations on HIV prevention strategies, including provisions for an opt-out testing program for pregnant women that would make HIV testing a part of routine prenatal tests. According to the CDC, voluntary HIV testing systems, or opt-in programs, are not as effective as opt-out systems that do not specifically ask for consent. If a woman refuses an HIV test, the CDC suggests that states test newborns for the virus so that they can be treated immediately if necessary (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/17). Mother-to-child HIV transmission can occur during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding, according to the Tribune. About 25% of HIV-positive women who are not undergoing antiretroviral treatment for HIV infection pass the virus on to their infants; however, if women receive treatment, the transmission rate can be reduced to 2%. The bill now goes to Gov. Gray Davis (D) for consideration (Oakland Tribune, 9/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.