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The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right


A 1999 Connecticut law aimed at reducing mother-to-child HIV transmissions by requiring that all pregnant women in the state be tested for HIV antibodies has been remarkably successful, reducing the perinatal infection rate to zero in 2002, according to state health officials. The law changed the HIV testing procedure from an opt-in approach to an opt-out system that made the tests mandatory unless the mother-to-be specifically decides not to be screened. As a result, about 80% of pregnant women in the state are screened for HIV today, up from about 25% to 30% previously, according to published reports. Babies born to women who opt out of the tests are required to be screened for HIV infection'with or without the mother's consent. In 1995, when the state first began recording mother-to-child transmission figures, eight babies were born with HIV. In 2000, that number had fallen to just one. And preliminary data for 2002 show that there were no cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission anywhere in Connecticut. A short course of anti-HIV drugs given to the mother during labor or to the newborn after birth can prevent the baby from becoming infected. The key is determining whether the mother-to-be carries the virus. Some physicians in the state even recommend that pregnant women be screened for HIV antibodies early on in the pregnancy and then again nearer to the delivery date to make sure a recent infection has not occurred.

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