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South Dakota Health Official Calls For Routine HIV Screening Among Pregnant Women

February 3, 2009

All pregnant women should be routinely tested for HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, a South Dakota Department of Health official said on Friday when announcing that two infants born in the state last year tested HIV-positive, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports. The two pediatric HIV cases were among the 34 total new cases recorded in 2008, according to the data released on Friday. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist with the department, said that physicians should institute routine testing for pregnant women and that drug regimens can be used to prevent MTCT. He added that the testing should be part of standard screening care. "The physicians absolutely need to keep this in mind and institute routine testing," Kightlinger said, adding, "These cases could have been prevented."

According to the Argus Leader, the health department has advertised in a physician trade magazine to emphasize that it follows CDC recommendations for HIV testing among pregnant women. Physicians at Sanford Health Systems in Sioux Falls began screening all pregnant women last year as part of a new policy, allowing women to opt out of screening. Dan Heinemann -- chief medical officer of the Health Services Division -- said that screening is inexpensive, part of a routine blood test and typically covered by insurance. He said, "If we identify that a woman is HIV-positive, treating her during pregnancy ... is so successful you can pretty much say that child will be born without HIV." In response to the two pediatric HIV cases reported in 2008, Heinemann said, "Two is too many, especially since we've got such good treatment." Peter Van Eerden, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center, said that administering HIV treatment to pregnant women can reduce an infant's risk of contracting HIV to less than 1%, adding the testing should be part of discussions between pregnant women and their physicians. According to Kightlinger, the number of new HIV cases in South Dakota in 2008 is on the rise, up from 25 new cases in 2007 (Schmidt, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2/2).

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