HIV Testing of Pregnant Women, Infants Should Be Routine, Opinion Piece Says
Mother-to-child HIV transmission "has been all but eliminated" in the United States, but health officials still can "save hundreds more lives" by making prenatal and perinatal HIV testing routine, Dennis Byrne, a Chicago-area writer, says in a Chicago Tribune opinion piece (Byrne, Chicago Tribune, 2/14). 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, according to public health officials. In 1990, nearly 2,000 U.S. infants were born HIV-positive, but that number has been cut to approximately 200 annually today. 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 fetuses and infants during pregnancy or delivery. As a result of better antiretroviral drugs, more rigorous HIV testing, aggressive public health efforts and cooperation between federal and state health officials -- the risk of vertical HIV transmission has dropped in the United States (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31). Although the decline in vertical transmission has been a "spectacular medical victory," some critics of routine testing have called it an "unconstitutional violation of the woman's and the child's privacy," Byrne writes. However, "many more newborns could be saved from uncertainty, misery or even death if HIV testing were routine," Byrne concludes (Chicago Tribune, 2/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.