July 16, 2010
A Bronx hospital is seeing remarkable progress in the prevention of mother-to-infant HIV transmission.
"I see just over 100 HIV-positive women a year," said Dr. Rodney Wright, HIV program director in maternal-fetal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Of the women who have taken their medications and done the things we asked, none of them have had HIV-positive babies."
The program serves primarily African-American and Hispanic patients. Wright estimates that one-third of his patients find out they are HIV-positive after becoming pregnant.
The message Wright works to get out is that HIV-positive women are able to have babies without the virus. High viral loads can necessitate a Caesarian section, but a vaginal delivery can be appropriate for a woman with lower viral loads.
"We definitely know how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV," Wright said. "The medications work. There are a couple of other minor things we do during the birth process that are different, there are a couple of things we do for them in the postpartum period that are different, but we know how to prevent it."
The program at Montefiore is comprehensive, offering a full range of medical and psychosocial services, including advice on dealing with a sexual partner who may have transmitted the virus.
Wright, who chairs the board of directors of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said he feels a kinship with the patients he sees every day.
"While being here in the Bronx I realized that many of these patients -- young women in many cases -- could be my sister, my mother, could be anybody in my family."