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Preventing HIV Transmission from Mother to Child

In 1993, approximately 7,000 HIV-infected women gave birth in the United States. Of those newborns, 1,000 to 2,000 are infected with HIV-now the seventh leading cause of death in children aged 1 to 4 (Gordon and Hooker). HIV in children is becoming more and more widespread and there is still no cure for it. The most common way children contract HIV is through their mother. The percentage of HIV transmission from mother to child can be prevented in a number of ways. One of the ways HIV transmission from mother to child can be prevented is through AZT treatment.

AZT is a drug that is given to HIV positive mothers, which can decrease mother to child transmission by 67. 5 percent (Gordon and Hooker). The mother is given five doses of AZT a day for the last six months of her pregnancy and then four doses during labor and an AZT syrup is given to the newborn for six weeks after birth (Gordon and Hooker). AZT is the only drug approved for preventing HIV transmission from mother to child (Women and HIV 10). Mothers choosing to not breast-feed their children can also prevent HIV transmission.

The chance that a newborn can contract HIV from their mothers breast milk is up to 14 percent (Kent). In October 1995 the U. S. Food and Drug Administrations FDA consumer magazine said Women who are HIV positive should not breast-feed (Kent). Even though the percentage of mother to child transmission through breast milk is low, there is still that small chance and any chance that a child could contract HIV is too much. There are alternatives to breast-feeding such as formula or using breast milk from a milk bank (Kent).

Though these alternatives are better than taking the chance of transmitting HIV to a child, they too have their bad sides. The use of formula, for example, poses a risk of the newborn getting diarrhea and other life threatening diseases (Kent). Breast milk can be heated to lessen the chances of the child contracting HIV, but there is still that small yet deadly chance. HIV testing in pregnant women could also help stop the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

With a mothers knowledge of HIV status she could be counseled appropriately so she could choose whether of not to go on with the pregnancy, fully aware of the risks HIV could pose on her child (Gostin 65). If a mother is unaware that she has HIV the baby is denied the opportunity to get treatment. Its killing kids who dont have to die (Gordon and Hooker). At this time HIV testing in pregnant women is voluntary and has a very low success rate. Women wont take the HIV test because they refuse to believe that they are at risk and they are scared of the results (Gordon and Hooker).

Making HIV testing mandatory in pregnant women could save a lot of childrens lives. Most HIV infected children dont make it to the age of 4 and the rest will fdie before their teens (Gordon and Hooker). Mandatory HIV testing and AZT treatment is also less costly for the Health Care System then treating a mother and her child for HIV for the rest of their lives (Gordon and Hooker). Mother to child transmission of HIV would be greatly reduced by HIV testing in pregnant women.

Mandatory testing for HIV in pregnant women also has its down sides. Testing the mother would reveal her HIV status and women would get scared away from the health system and even prenatal care. Civil rights issues also raise concerns. Women are scared that the HIV test results would not be kept confidential and they would become the target of prejudice social policy and practice (Gostin 63). Pregnant women are more likely to go to a doctor and get prenatal care if they do not feel pressured into taking HIV tests.

In the future there will probably be a cure for HIV but until then we need to cut down the spread of the disease starting with children. They should be given a chance to live a fulfilling life and the only way that can happen is for their mother to give them the chance. The percentage of HIV transmission from mother to child can be prevented in a number of ways. The use of AZT, the testing for HIV in pregnant women, and HIV mothers choosing not to breast-feed could all lower the rates of HIV transmission.

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