Nearly 4,000 people a year are infected with HIV in Texas, yet a third of those people don't know it. This week a new guideline was released by the U.S. Preventive services task force recommending routine HIV testing for all pregnant women. A mother who knows early in her pregnancy about her HIV status has more time to make important decisions. Providing HIV testing to all pregnant women will make a large impact in east Texas for prevention and treatment.
Deanna Still, Executive Director Heartbeat Pregnancy Center, said, "I think it'll be a good recommendation for any pregnant woman to be tested for HIV."
"The benefits of HIV testing is of course to identify an HIV positive mother. If we find a positive diagnosis for a mother, then we can positively affect the life of both the mother and her unborn fetus and to be child," David Vineyard, OBGYN, said.
In East Texas, HIV testing is provided as a blood drawing test to mothers early in their pregnancy and again in their third trimester. Vineyard said, "The reason is we've had several cases of women who were negative, HIV negative at the beginning of their pregnancy who had contracted the disease and were positive by the time they got close to term. Now if they didn't know that their likelihood of delivering an HIV positive infant is dramatically high. So, by testing them again in the third trimester close to term that allows us to rule that in or out, and if we find HIV at the time, we can initiate the treatment that very likely will prevent their fetus from contracting the disease."
HIV testing is not mandatory for expecting mothers but is highly encouraged.
"I don't understand why anyone would not want to have that because it reduces the transmission of HIV from mama to baby. They know what anti-viral drugs to give mom, they know what procedure to do when delivery comes, and they know how to treat mom afterwards. It's a win, win situation," Still said.