State's Doctors Push HIV Testing
April 22, 2003
Most South Carolina doctors are encouraging pregnant women to be tested for HIV infection, falling in line with CDC's new plan to increase testing among pregnant women. CDC unveiled its new strategy Thursday, which urges HIV testing for all pregnant women, not just those who volunteer.Adapted from:
Health officials hope wider testing will lead to more women getting the prenatal treatments that have proven successful in reducing mother-to-child transmission. Currently, about 300 children nationwide contract HIV from their mothers annually.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has been educating doctors and health care professionals about the importance of HIV testing for about eight years, said Dr. Jerry Gibson, director of DHEC's bureau of disease control. During that time, the number of HIV-positive babies born in the state has dropped from about a dozen per year in the mid-1990s to only one or two during the past few years, he added.
South Carolina state law requires pregnant women to be screened only for syphilis, though doctors are strongly encouraged to test for other diseases such as hepatitis. The state does not have to mandate HIV testing to be eligible for a portion of $35 million in CDC grant money for prevention efforts.
One of the main drawbacks is the stigma still attached to HIV, which makes the measure so controversial, said Donna Richter, professor and chair of health promotion, education and behavior at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health. But because the treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission is so successful, it is hard to argue against it, Richter said. Richter also speculates that once HIV testing becomes a routine part of a woman's prenatal care, it will not be such an issue anymore.
Dr. Bambi Gaddist, executive director of the SC African-American HIV/AIDS Council, prefers leaving the decision about testing to pregnant women. She believes most women will opt for the test if it is offered, because "they want what's best for their kids."
State (Columbia, S.C.)
04.19.03; Jaymi Freiden
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.