May 1, 1996 in Nation/World

Infant Hiv Tests Considered

New York Times
 

House and Senate negotiators tentatively agreed Tuesday on a measure that eventually would require states to begin mandatory testing of newborns for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, if health officials cannot reduce the number of infected infants, people involved in the talks said Tuesday night.

States that do not comply would risk losing federal money under the Ryan White Act, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the treatment of people with AIDS.

The testing provision has been agreed to by House and Senate conferees who are ironing out differences in companion versions of the overall Ryan White reauthorization bill.

The provision would establish a complicated series of measures states would have to take, but it was not immediately clear if all the details have been decided.

The question of mandatory testing long has been one of the most contentious AIDS issues, especially among people who say it not only violates the privacy rights of pregnant women but also ultimately could lead to testing of other groups.

The issue is particularly thorny when it comes to newborns.

Studies show that steps taken before or at birth can reduce substantially the rate of HIV transmission to infants.

On the other hand, because infected infants can be born only to infected mothers, an infant’s test results could reveal the mother’s medical condition whether she wished to be tested or not.


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