California Gov. Davis Undecided on Whether To Sign Bill Requiring Physicians To Offer HIV Testing to Pregnant Women
California Gov. Gray Davis (D) has not yet decided whether he will sign a bill that would require physicians to offer a voluntary HIV test to all pregnant women in the state, according to Davis spokesperson Russ Lopez, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 9/24). The bill (AB 1676), 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 test 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 2004 culturally sensitive educational material on HIV testing. 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. 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. Mother-to-child HIV transmission can occur during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding, and 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% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/15). Davis last year vetoed a similar measure that would have allowed doctors to perform an HIV test on a pregnant woman unless she specifically refused. Davis said that he vetoed the bill because he was concerned that some women -- such as drug users -- may perceive the tests as mandatory and may not seek prenatal care for fear of being reported to authorities if they tested HIV-positive (Los Angeles Times, 9/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.