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Doctors: It's Your Responsibility

January 1, 1981

All health care providers who treat pregnant women (or women thinking about becoming pregnant) need to test their patients for HIV. Currently, physicians are being urged to offer voluntary HIV testing of pregnant women; however, in the future, this testing may become mandatory.

According to PHS Guidelines, health care providers should offer all pregnant women counseling about the ways they could be infected with HIV and information on voluntary testing for HIV. Voluntary testing means that after a woman receives appropriate counseling from her health care provider, she is able to make an informed decision about having an HIV test. Research shows that when a pregnant woman's health care provider talks to her about the test and what it means, most women choose to be tested.

In several communities, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Baltimore, the combined strategy of HIV counseling for all pregnant women and voluntary HIV testing has already proven effective.

Recent statistics indicate that, in 1993 (the most recent year for which complete data are available) an estimated 7,000 HIV-infected women gave birth in the U.S. The prevalence of HIV infection in women giving birth was about 1.6 per 1,000, or about 1 in every 625. Assuming an HIV transmission rate from mother to infant of about 15% - 30%, about 1,000 to 2,000 HIV-infected were born in the U.S. in 1993.

For further information on HIV transmission and testing, please visit the Center for Disease Control's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention site.

In addition, the National Institutes of Health has new research data available regarding AZT and pregnant women that you may find of interest.

The following is a list of additional HIV-related links that health care providers may find useful:

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