If the bill proposed Thursday passes, New Jersey will become the first state to require both pregnant women and newborn babies to undergo routine HIV testing.
Currently, four states test for HIV during pregnancy. Those include Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Michigan.
Two states, New York and Connecticut, test all newborns for the deadly virus.
New Jersey may very well become the first state to make the HIV test part of routine prenatal care and newborn procedures at the time of birth.
Of course, like all medical procedures, testing and otherwise mandatory doesn’t mean there’s no way to get away from the required HIV screening.
Mother’s who wish to opt out will need to sign a waiver, write out their wishes regarding declining the test.
Health professionals are becoming increasingly aware that the best way to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic is to prevent in whenever possible.
In the case of newborn babies catching the disease from their mother during birth, routine testing can have a huge impact on whether or not they are positive and suffer the effects of the always deadly condition.
If a woman is known to be HIV positive, she can be given a serious of medications during pregnancy that will greatly reduce the risk that her newborn is also infected.
Currently the statistics are that babies born to HIV positive mothers have a 25% chance of testing positive when no drugs are administered. If drugs are given during labor and delivery, they have a 13% chance of becoming infected. If medication is also given during pregnancy the number drops drastically to only 2% likely to test positive for HIV at birth.
With that information available, lawmakers and health advocates are in favor of routine or mandatory HIV screening in order to save innocent lives and give babies the best chance of survival, even when their mother may have the deadly virus.
Currently New Jersey only recommends HIV testing, health care providers are encouraged to give their pregnant patients information regarding the screening and the benefits of knowing for sure what their status is before giving birth.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also recommended that all women be testing during pregnancy, but they add that the choice should be free of coercion and one that the woman can make on her own.
Women alone make up for 23% of all cases of HIV in the United States and New Jersey has a high rate of 17,700 cases, 5,800 which are women (making it 32%, higher than the national average)
The state also has the third highest cases of children with HIV with 772 infected. Florida has the next highest amount just under New York which has the most pediatric HIV cases.
Making the test mandatory would not only save lives of innocent young children but it would also take the stigmatism away from those who seem “at risk” for potentially being HIV positive.
If all women and newborns were required to have the screening done, no one would feel like they were being singled out.