March 10th is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day #NWGHAAD
This year, we’re taking a moment to consider HIV and pregnancy and that knowledge is power.
During my first pregnancy, in my first OB appointment, I received STD testing. I assumed this meant all STDs, including HIV. However, I learn this wasn’t the case until years later, when I began working at NAP. Nebraska was one of the few opt- in states, meaning that I would have to have ask specifically for an HIV test during my pregnancy, in order to get tested. That blew my mind. I realized I could have unknowingly passed on HIV to my son. And it made me wonder perhaps how many other expecting mothers didn’t realize they were at risk of not knowing their status? My doctor’s office never asked me if I wanted an HIV test. I went my whole pregnancy without knowing my HIV status, and the more I thought about it, that also meant I went my whole sexually active life without knowing my HIV status, because I had never specifically asked for an HIV test.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, what does HIV and pregnancy look like today?
- Approximately 8,500 women living with HIV give birth annually (based on an estimate from 2006, the most recent available).
- Between 1994 and 2010, an estimated 21,956 cases of perinatally acquired HIV infections were prevented.
- In 2016, 99 children under the age of 13 received a diagnosis of perinatally acquired HIV.
Rate of Perinatally Acquired HIV Infections by Year of Birth and Mother’s Race/Ethnicity
In February 2018, the Nebraska legislature passed LB 285, a bill that changed Nebraska from an opt- in state to an opt-out, meaning expecting moms have to ask not to take the test. It is now considered part of routine testing for pregnant women.
I’m now in my second pregnancy and my first OB appointment featured a consent form for an HIV test. It has made me think about the benefits of expanding the Nebraska law to include all health care patients. According to CDC recommendations, “HIV testing and opt-out HIV screening be a part of routine clinical care in all health-care settings while also preserving the patient’s option to decline HIV testing and ensuring a provider-patient relationship conducive to optimal clinical and preventive care”. Some people are worried about the ethical implications of being required to take an HIV test. But the point is you don’t have to. You can say no because you are given the choice, rather than never knowing there was a choice to begin with.
What it comes down to is that knowledge is power. Knowing your status is power.