Prenatal testing for HIV gaining

first_imgTRENTON, N.J. – HIV testing will soon become part of routine prenatal care and be required for some newborns in New Jersey under a new law that supporters say is putting the state in the forefront of the national fight against HIV transmission to babies. Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey signed the measure into law Wednesday at University Hospital in Newark. The law will take effect in six months. “We can significantly reduce the number of infections to newborns and help break down the stigma associated with the disease,” Codey said. “For newborns, early detection can be the ultimate lifesaving measure.” Codey, the acting governor while Gov. Jon S. Corzine is out of the country this week for the holidays, sponsored the bill as the Senate president. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonMeanwhile, a ban in Washington, D.C., against using city money for needle-exchange programs was lifted Wednesday, a move that officials say will help reduce the soaring rate of AIDS and HIV there. A provision allowing the city to fund needle exchanges was included in the $555billion spending bill signed by President Bush on Wednesday. Federal spending packages dating back to 1998 had previously blocked such programs. The New Jersey bill allows women to opt out of the HIV testing, but critics contend that the screening will deprive women of their right to make medical decisions. According to the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focusing on U.S. health care, New Jersey is the first state to push HIV testing for both pregnant women and newborns. Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas require health-care providers to test a mother for HIV, unless the mother asks not to be tested, while Connecticut, Illinois and New York test all newborns for HIV, according to the foundation. New Jersey has required providers only to offer HIV testing to pregnant women. Under the new law, HIV testing will be part of routine prenatal care for all pregnant women, and doctors will provide pregnant women with information about HIV and AIDS. It also requires newborns to be tested when the mother has tested positive or her HIV status is unknown. Riki E. Jacobs, executive director of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Brunswick, the state’s largest AIDS service agency, said the law won’t help the women who don’t get prenatal care. “We need to focus on getting people into care and keeping them in care,” Jacobs said. “That is our most potent prevention weapon.” The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all pregnant women be tested for HIV, though it has said testing should be voluntary. The CDC also found that medical intervention during pregnancy can cut mother-to-child HIV transmission from 25percent to 2percent. New Jersey has about 17,600 AIDS cases, according to the Kaiser Foundation. Women represent 32.4percent of the cases – the third-highest rate in the nation. The national average is 23.4percent. The state has about 115,000 births per year and had seven infants born with HIV in 2005, according to state health department officials. The American Civil Liberties Union and some women’s groups contend that the bill deprives women of authority to make medical decisions. “Women’s privacy rights and choices are as constitutionally valid as any other citizen, regardless of reproductive status,” said Maretta J. Short, New Jersey’s National Organization of Women president. In Washington, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said in a statement Wednesday that needle exchanges will be included in a larger city program to reduce AIDS and HIV infections. About $1million will be devoted to the exchanges. About 128 of every 100,000 Washington residents have AIDS, compared with 14 cases per 100,000 people nationwide, according to a recent study. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more