Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion in Reaction to Near Elimination of Vertical HIV Transmission in U.S.
Public health officials last month announced that vertical HIV transmission, which led to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. infants annually 10 years ago, has been virtually eliminated in the United States. In 1990, nearly 2,000 U.S. infants were born HIV-positive, but that number has been cut to approximately 200 annually, health officials said. The sharp decline is due in large part to the availability of antiretroviral drugs that when given to HIV-positive pregnant women can greatly reduce their chances of passing on the virus to their infants during pregnancy or delivery. An HIV-positive pregnant woman who does not receive antiretroviral drug treatment has a 20% to 25% chance of transmitting the virus to her infant, according to CDC. However, one year after antiretroviral drugs started being used to prevent vertical HIV transmission, the rate had been reduced to 8%, according to Dr. Lynne Mofenson, chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch of NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Since then -- as a result of better antiretroviral drugs, routine HIV testing, public health efforts and cooperation between federal and state health officials -- the risk of vertical HIV transmission has dropped even further in the United States (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). Several media sources recently have published opinion pieces and editorials in response to the report. One of each is summarized below.
- Arizona Daily Star: The near elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the United States is a "testament to the health and economic resources of a wealthy nation," and the country's success should "serve as a model for the ravaged African continent," a Daily Star editorial says. Although this "remarkable medical turnaround" cannot be replicated in resource-poor settings in sub-Saharan Africa, the use of comprehensive strategies to address vertical HIV transmission worldwide "should help stem the march of the disease," the editorial concludes (Arizona Daily Star, 2/7).
- Rich Lowry, National Review Online: As a result of increased HIV testing, more pregnant women and infants are receiving care and treatment to prevent vertical HIV transmission, National Review editor Lowry writes in a National Review Online opinion piece. However, HIV testing policies vary from state to state, and despite the national decline in the vertical HIV transmission rate, mother-to-child HIV transmission "has not been stamped out," Lowry says, concluding that states must adopt comprehensive and uniform requirements to identify and treat HIV-positive pregnant women in order to eliminate vertical transmission completely in the United States (Lowry, National Review Online, 2/4).