Preventing HIV in Newborns

By: Domonique Benn
By: Domonique Benn

November 14, 2005
About 300 babies are born every year in this country with HIV. But one doctor says if everyone would get tested, that number could probably decrease to 10 or 20. News 12 is on your side with why you need to know your HIV status before you have a baby.

Chaquita Cooper knows the importance of having an HIV test. She had two during her pregnancy.

“All my test came back alright so I wasn’t really worried,” Cooper said.

One thing Dr. Andrew Helfgott is urging other pregnant women to do. In Georgia there is no law that requires an HIV test during pregnancy, only consent if one is given. But Dr. Helfgott is urging pregnant women to ask for the test, making sure that positive result is not passed on to the newborn. He remembers a case in Florida.

“So she was negative when we first saw her, she became positive. We were able to test during delivery and give the kid medicine and at last I heard that kid was negative,” Helfgott said.

Like in that case, Dr. Helfgott says HIV is preventable in babies if mothers follow the current recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.

The current recommendation urges women to get an HIV test when they find out they are pregnant and then again in the third trimester before labor and delivery.

“So if we treat moms and we do a c-section then we can reduce the risk to less than 2%. If you don’t do anything, the risk is 25%,” Helfgott said.

And although Chaquita and little E’mya tested negative, she urges other pregnant women to know their status.

“If you do have it you might as well go ahead and find out so you can get treated and the baby can get treated,” Cooper said.

There is also a rapid test available in case someone comes into labor and delivery and does not know their HIV status. Results are available in about 20 minutes with a simple finger prick test. This gives doctors other options for delivery to prevent transmission to the baby if they find out the mother is positive.

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