HIV testing during pregnancy ‘routine’
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.
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.