HIV-positive women who took AZT while pregnant were significantly less likely to deliver babies with the virus, researchers said Tuesday.
But in another study, some pregnant, HIV-positive women offered AZT by a New York City hospital were either afraid of the drug or failed to complete their prescriptions.
“These studies highlight areas where we need to work harder,” said Dr. R.J. Simonds, a pediatrician who specializes in HIV-AIDS prevention at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The two studies were published in Wednesday’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
In the first, 5.7 percent of the infants born to 87 HIV-positive women who took AZT got the AIDS virus. Of 106 HIV-positive women who didn’t take AZT, 18.9 percent of the children were positive.
It was conducted in urban and rural areas of North Carolina, where five major teaching hospitals are cooperating to treat HIV-positive expectant mothers, said Dr. Susan Fiscus, a microbiology and immunology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who led the study.
That cooperation allowed doctors to identify and treat an estimated 90 percent of all HIV-exposed children in the state in the last quarter of 1994, Fiscus said.
“What may work in North Carolina may not work in New York or other parts of the country,” she said.
That was evident to doctors at Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center in New York who studied 49 pregnant women with HIV in 1994 and 1995. The doctors offered the women AZT after telling them the drug had lowered by two-thirds the rate of infant HIV infection in a 1994 study by the National Institutes of Health.
Of the 46 who completed their pregnancies, only 24 mothers chose to take the drug and took it as prescribed. Twelve women who said they would take the AZT failed to do so properly, often because of addictions to illegal drugs.
The study said that some of the women who chose not to take AZT cited potential side effects and the drug’s effectiveness.
Because so few women completed the treatment, the resulting group was too small to accurately measure how well the AZT worked in reducing the number of infants who were infected.