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HIV Tests to Be Made Mandatory for Pregnant Women, Infants in New Jersey

New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey (D) has announced that he plans to introduce a bill that would require all pregnant women and infants// in the state to be tested for HIV unless women choose in writing to opt out of the test, the AP/Benton Crier reports.

Current state law requires health care providers to offer HIV tests to pregnant women, the AP/Crier reports. Codey's bill would require pregnant women to be tested for HIV as early as possible in their pregnancy and again during the third trimester.

Under the bill, every birthing facility in the state also would be required to provide infants under their care with HIV tests. In addition, physicians and health care providers would be required to provide pregnant women with information about HIV/AIDS, the benefits of being tested, available medical treatment and how treatment can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, the AP/Crier reports.

"The key in the fight against HIV and AIDS is early detection and treatment," Codey said, adding, "For newborns this can be a lifesaving measure. If early detection can help reduce newborn infections and improve the quality of life for newborns and women that are infected, then by all means, we should be doing it."

Leslie Wolfe -- president of Center for Women Policy Studies, which opposes mandatory testing -- said, "There's an important issue about privacy and the right to make certain decisions about one's self." She added, "What's really needed is good counseling, preventative education, and conversations with respectful medical personnel and counselors about HIV." CDC has recommended that all pregnant women be tested for HIV, although it said testing "should be voluntary and free of coercion."

According to Codey, the "additional benefit" of testing every pregnant woman in the state includes reducing the stigma associated with testing women based on high-risk behaviors. He added that it would make pregnant women less inclined to refuse the test. "In a state with some of the highest HIV rates among women, this move should be a no-brainer," Codey said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, New Jersey at the end of 2005 had an estimated 17,700 AIDS cases, including 5,800 among women. The state also has 772 pediatric AIDS cases and about 400 pediatric HIV cases -- the third and second highest, respectively, in the U.S. -- according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. New Jersey has the highest new HIV case rate among women in the U.S. and ranks fifth in HIV prevalence in the country.

Source-Kaiser Family Foundation

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