HIV Babies

Essay by Jordan TerryCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 1996

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Last year, it was cause for celebration. The cause of celebration was for the results that several clinical trials of zidovudine cut the risk for mother to child transmission of human immune deficiency virus (HIV) by two thirds. Although, this year, it is the basis for new federal recommendations that all pregnant women should receive HIV testing and counseling. But, these findings have been cause of protests by several activist groups. Activists fear that conservative legislators and policy makers will use the clinical data to justify mandatory testing and treatment for pregnant women.

During the latter part of February, the United States Public Health Services published guidelines for HIV pregnant women in the Federal Register. Which coincidentally was published on the same day as the National Conference in Washington, DC for 'HIV infection in women: Setting a New Agenda.' The conference included activists, physicians and HIV positive women who used the meeting as a forum to voice their concerns about how best to balance women's own medical needs with those of their infants.

Other concerns of activists that were voiced were that they don't want laws, policies or medical care imposed on women merely as 'vectors' who may transmit HIV to their infants.

The new guidelines recommend that all pregnant women should receive HIV counseling and testing. These guidelines are aimed at helping pregnant women know their HIV status early so that medical care, including zidovudine (Retrovir, known as AZT, Burroughs Welcome Co., Research Triangle Park, NC), can be made available. The new guidelines also reiterate previous federal health advisories that say counseling should precede HIV testing.

Physicians and other health professionals who counsel women should be well informed about the complex issues that face HIV infected pregnant women, according to the guidelines. This information should include about all...