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Unique Maternity Program Takes Care of HIV-Positive Women Having Babies

October 1, 2008

The Canadian Pediatric AIDS Research Group reports that 150 to 175 babies are born to HIV-positive mothers in Canada each year. Proper treatment can reduce a mother's chance of transmitting the virus from 30 percent to less than 1 percent. Yet fear of mistreatment drives many infected women to deliver their babies at home and unattended, said Jay MacGillivray, a midwife.

The Positive Pregnancy Program seeks to alleviate such fears by pairing midwives with skilled HIV practitioners. MacGillivray works with Mark Yudin, an obstetrician and gynecologist with special training in reproductive infectious diseases, to care for HIV-positive women through pregnancy, labor, and beyond. Working together, they ensure that women are treated by professionals who are comfortable with HIV patients.

"I will see [the patient] prenatally, try and normalize her pregnancy for her -- because she's thrilled to be pregnant, but she's going to find people all the way through who, if they knew she was positive, would be horrified," MacGillivray said. Post-birth, MacGillivray, a practitioner with Sages-Femmes Rouge Valley midwives, helps the women access pediatricians and AIDS service organizations.

"It's a little unusual for a midwife and obstetrician to work so closely together," Yudin said. "To me, this is a bit of a unique entity where we can really offer something special to these women." Yudin is conducting research into physicians' attitudes about HIV-positive people having children, and he hopes to see these patients gain better access to services, like specialized fertility clinics, to improve outcomes. "These are people that deserve to have a baby, just like anyone else," he said.

"Our hope is that eventually we can use it as a transferrable model," MacGillivray said of the program, which currently receives no special funding. Health professionals in numerous other countries have expressed interest in launching similar efforts.

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Excerpted from:
Canadian Press
09.30.2008; Tamsyn Burgmann

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