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Arizona: HIV Test Helps Mothers Protect Newborns

March 6, 2008

On Monday, Phoenix is marking National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with a series of educational events and quick, confidential HIV screening.

In 14 years in medicine, Phoenix Children's Hospital's Dr. Janice Piatt says she has met "so many women who only found out they had the virus because they were tested in pregnancy." Of 70-75 kids with HIV that the hospital is following, most were infected before or during birth or afterwards through breast-feeding, she said.

"If you don't know [you are infected], you won't do any of the things that can make a difference," Piatt said. In 2000, 40 percent of pregnant women did not know their HIV status, CDC reported.

But with a prenatal HIV diagnosis, an expectant mother can prevent transmitting HIV to her baby by taking medicine before and during birth, and she can consult her doctor about a less risky delivery, said Piatt. The infant would also receive treatment and not be breast-fed by the mother.

"If you had unprotected sex, you could be at risk," said Piatt. "And if you're pregnant, you had unprotected sex. Even if you've never had another partner, your partner may have."

Prenatal HIV screening is recommended by CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other health organizations, Piatt said. But sometimes doctors fear embarrassing, frightening or appearing to judge patients.

In partnership with the Arizona and Maricopa County health departments, the Fresh Start Women's Foundation is hosting the awareness day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1130 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix. Free HIV screening is available; the event is open to all women 18 and older. For more information, visit or telephone 602-252-8494.

Back to other news for March 2008

Adapted from:
Arizona Republic (Phoenix)
03.05.2008; Connie Midley

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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.
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