The Vermont Department of Health on Tuesday released guidelines recommending that all pregnant women in the state be screened for HIV as part of routine tests performed by health care providers, the Rutland Herald reports. The health department began working with leaders in obstetrics and HIV/AIDS last year to draft the new testing guidelines. The new guidelines were mailed to health care providers last week, the Herald reports.
Vermont's current guidelines establish an opt-in system under which pregnant women are offered pretest counseling and then must give their consent before being tested. The new guidelines also call for an opt-out system under which physicians administer the test as part of routine health examinations unless pregnant women decline to be tested. State health department officials said that 2004 data indicated that about 62% of pregnant women agreed to an HIV test, 21% declined and 17% were not offered the test.
Donald Swartz, medical director for the health department, said the cost of the test will be low and billed as a routine prenatal blood test. Positive results will be rescreened for confirmation. He added that the feedback from people consulted by the health department shows that most pregnant women would consent to take the test (Allen, Rutland Herald, 2/13). "We are encouraging providers to make HIV screening part of the routine battery of tests that all women in prenatal care receive to protect the health of their babies," Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, said, adding, "Even though our rates of HIV are low on a national scale, if we can prevent even one case of mother-to-child transmission by issuing this recommendation, we will have achieved our goal" (VDH release, 2/5).
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