HIV Pregnancies on Rise in New Zealand
December 12, 2002
An estimated 60 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women in New Zealand do not know they have the virus, and risk passing it on to their babies. The number of New Zealand babies born with HIV is not high. However, AIDS Epidemiology Group Director Nigel Dickson said numbers had been rising since 1995 as more women were being infected with HIV.
"Before 1995, we had just two babies diagnosed with HIV in New Zealand," Dickson said. "But we have had five since 1995. In 1999, there were three children infected perinatally and we know of one child in the past 12 months who was infected."
Dickson estimated HIV was discovered in just 40 percent of pregnant women with the disease in New Zealand, because pregnant women are tested for HIV based on their risk of exposure to the disease. He said HIV-positive women were falling through the cracks and there was concern that the number of HIV babies born in New Zealand was increasing while in countries such as the United States and Britain, where pregnant women are routinely offered HIV tests, the number of babies infected is decreasing.
The AIDS Epidemiology Group wants to carry out a study to find out how prevalent HIV is in pregnant women in New Zealand. Dickson said this would provide more information on whether pregnant women should be offered voluntary HIV tests when they are tested for hepatitis B, syphilis, rubella and German measles. AEG wants to anonymously test blood taken from babies at birth for HIV antibodies, which are present in the baby's blood regardless of whether the baby has the disease. Dickson said the testing would be done using blood screened for metabolic conditions and without knowing the identity of the mothers.
Sexual Health Doctor Sue Bagshaw, who supports voluntary HIV testing, said Christchurch School of Medicine research showed very few general practitioners, midwives, and obstetricians in Christchurch, the West Coast, and the upper South Island asked women whether they might be at risk for HIV.
12.04.02; Brooker Michelle
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.