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HIV/AIDS News for Women

August 2000

Voluntary HIV Testing Urged for Mothers-To-Be

Pregnant women in the U.S. should be routinely and voluntarily tested for HIV, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The chair of ACOG's committee on obstetric practice said the organization's goal "is to make HIV testing as commonplace as urinalysis during the first prenatal office visit." ACOG's previous policy recommended testing only for women at high risk for infection.

HIV Affects Fertility

Fertility declines as HIV infection continues, suggests new research conducted by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers compared pregnancy rates of infected and unaffected women and found that HIV-positive women are less likely to become pregnant the longer they are seropositive. Lowered birth rates appeared unrelated to such factors as contraceptive use, induced abortion, or drug use.


HIV-Infected Women Deserve Infertility Treatment

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine says that HIV-infected women have a right to infertility treatment.

The doctors noted that because new drug therapies can help keep HIV under control and prevent it from being passing to infants, and that antiviral drugs and Cesarean section delivery have reduced the number of newborns who contract HIV to about two percent, HIV-positive women should not be refused fertility services. The article contradicts a popular philosophy among some providers that the presence of HIV itself contraindicates fertility treatment.

Sperm Heating May Foil HIV

French researchers have found that heating sperm to kill HIV does not appear to genetically damage babies, although it will reduce the success of fertility techniques.

Researchers heated sperm from mice and then used a process in which a single sperm is injected into an egg to fertilize it. The researchers were able to produce two healthy mice, and genetic analysis indicated there was no damage to their DNA. Further research is necessary to make sure the process is safe.

If results are good, the process could have very positive implications for human in-vitro fertilization by HIV-positive parents.

Preventing Cervical Cancer

The standard of care for preventing cervical cancer continues to evolve.

The Pap smear has reduced the incidence of invasive cervical cancer in the U.S. 74 percent from 1955 to 1992. Since evidence shows that infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk of cervical cancer, researchers are recommending that women be routinely screened for HPV in addition to the standard Pap smear. However, researchers also note that HPV testing costs more than a Pap smear and false positives occur often.

In another study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that HIV-related immunosuppression in women is associated with persistent HPV infection. Future HPV prevention efforts will involve the development of an effective vaccine and microbicidal agents to inhibit or inactivate HPV.

Women's Global Views Examined by Survey

A study released to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly meeting on the progress of the world's women, surveyed 1,500 American women on a variety of issues.

The survey found that women more often than men base their foreign policy concerns on such global social issues as healthy, poverty and human rights. "What this poll tells us is that American women understand that the well-being of themselves, their families, and communities are increasingly intimately connected with the well-being and stability of other countries," said Aspen Institute spokesperson Joan Dunlop.

Women who were surveyed placed more priority on international efforts to prevent childhood diseases and on birth control availability than did men who were surveyed.

Notes from Around the Globe

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV remains a problem in many developing nations, as 90 percent of children infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Short-course AZT and Cesarean deliveries have shown to be effective in reducing perinatal transmission. Developing nations, however, have found these options too expensive and complex.

The British journal Lancet reports that researchers are working to develop other strategies for reducing transmission, including cleansing the infant and mother's birth canal with a virucide, giving nutritional supplements, and other subclinical treatments. However, these strategies are not without social significance. One result is that some women will not bottle-feed for fear of being identified as infected with HIV.

Public School Contraception in France

The French government's decision to allow nurses to give emergency contraception in high schools has sparked discussion in the U.S., which has a significantly higher teenage pregnancy rate than France.

A senior policy analyst with the Alan Guttmacher Institute observed that the U.S. does not have the same openness about sexuality as in France. American parents try to believe kids do not have sex, and that by not providing kids with information, they will not become sexually active.

Miniskirts and AIDS

In an effort to stem the spread of HIV, the African nation of Swaziland will ban miniskirts in schools starting next year. The move aims to end sexual relationships between teachers and female students in Swaziland, where at least 25 percent of the people are infected with HIV.

Rebecca Solomon is a case manager in AIDS Project Los Angeles' Client Services Division. For more information on these reports, please call (323) 993-1436 or contact her at

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

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This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.
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