HIV test­ing dur­ing preg­nancy ‘rou­tine’

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Ni­cola Wil­liams

Women are be­ing urged to be tested for HIV dur­ing preg­nancy.

In June 2005 the Health Min­istry an­nounced plans to rou­tinely of­fer HIV screen­ing to all women as part of an­te­na­tal care.

The screen­ing will run across the 21 dis­trict health boards in the coun­try, in­clud­ing the Auck­land Dis­trict Health Board.

The main mes­sage is that it is be­com­ing rou­tine and women shouldn’t feel they are be­ing sin­gled out by be­ing of­fered the test, says an­te­na­tal HIV co­or­di­na­tor Tracey Se­nior.

It has been stan­dard prac­tice in the UK since 1999.

Two ba­bies a year are con­tract­ing HIV from their moth­ers which is “two too many”, says Ms Se­nior.

Since 2000, 14 chil­dren in New Zealand con­tracted HIV be­cause it was un­de­tected dur­ing preg­nancy.

If women are di­ag­nosed and treated in preg­nancy the risk of trans­mis­sion can be re­duced from 30 per­cent to less than 1 per­cent, Ms Se­nior says.

No HIV pos­i­tive ba­bies have been born in this coun­try to HIV pos­i­tive women who were ap­pro­pri­ately tested dur­ing preg­nancy.

Get­ting treated with an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs, which can be taken from 26 weeks, pre­vents the de­vel­op­ing child con­tract­ing the dis­ease.

The ben­e­fits of a wo­man find­ing out she has HIV is that new treat­ments mean it is not a death sen­tence, says Ms Se­nior.

“Women are more than happy to have the test if it is go­ing to help the baby.”

The test will be of­fered at the first an­te­na­tal blood tests with tests in­clud­ing rubella, hep­ati­tis B, and syphilis.

Ms Se­nior says they ex­pect to pick up 10 women a year in New Zealand through the an­te­na­tal tests.

Twenty-four per­cent of newly di­ag­nosed HIV pos­i­tive pa­tients are women, and the num­ber of het­ero­sex­ual peo­ple di­ag­nosed with the virus is on the rise.

There are also benefi to the mother for early de­tec­tion of HIV, with new treat­ments im­prov­ing life ex­pectancy and qual­ity of life, she says.

Photo: FIONA GOODALL

Test­ing times: Tracey Se­nior, left, with lab­o­ra­tory head Nigel Yeates and sex­ual health nurse spe­cial­ist Les­ley Pow­ell, who are aiming to get all preg­nant women HIV tested.

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