The Baby AIDS Program

The Georgia legislature is considering adopting a “Baby AIDS” program that I heartily endorse and encourage them to pass. The law would require HIV testing of pregnant women, but allow an opt-out. I would encourage them to get rid of the opt-out provision.

The ACLU and AIDS activists hate this program and, under its federal moniker, is part of the Ryan White program. Anyone born in the seventies or before probably remembers Ryan White. The Democrats, under pressure from AIDS activists, just killed the program in Washington.

Georgia should really pick up the ball.

The Baby AIDS program has been extremely successful at eradicating AIDS in infants. Pregnant women who have HIV can take special drugs and post-birth steps to cut the risk that they will infect their children. Sadly, many women do not know they are infected and, as a result, pass the disease to their children.

New York was the first state to pass a Baby AIDS program. In 1990, prior to adoption of the program, there were 321 cases of Baby AIDS. By 2003, that number had dropped to 5.

Baby AIDS is quite preventable, but civil ilbertarians, AIDS activists, gay rights activists, and feminists have for years argued that the privacy concerns of the mother far outweigh all all concerns. That’s a shame because they are causing the infliction of a disease on children that could readily be stopped by a simple blood test. There’s a great article on this issue here from 2005.

I encourage those of you in the state legislature reading this to pass this legislation.

Technorati Tags: Baby AIDS

25 comments

  1. Chris says:

    I’ve been noodling over the issue of mother’s privacy vs baby’s health for awhile. Should it be illegal for a pregnant mom to smoke? drink alcohol? Coffee? eat red meat?

  2. Erick says:

    Where did that come from? I’m not and the legislation is not making it illegal for HIV+ women to have babies. The legislation just requires a blood test so we can prevent a baby from getting a fatal disease that would (to speak libertarian on you) more likely than not require significant tax payer intervention to cover the costs of medical care.

  3. jsm says:

    This is a tough one for me. I don’t like giving the government control over the care of unborn babies, but I understand the concern for public health affected by whether a child is born with HIV or contracts it early in life. Why a woman would opt out of an HIV test, especially if she has had unprotected sex with multiple partners, is beyond me.

    I have said on other threads that I believe the purpose of government is to protect it’s citizens. IMO, this falls into that category. I just don’t want to see Uncle Sam lording over women and micromanaging prenatal care.

  4. Decaturguy says:

    I generally support the concept of mandatory HIV/AIDS testing for pregnant women. However, it begs the question, if we do this shouldn’t we mandate testing for every person, including adults who are not pregnant, men and women? I mean adults are much more likely to actually spread the disease. Babies vitually have no ability to spread the disease.

  5. Erick says:

    Decaturguy, I see your point, but I think there is a difference here — the test is being used to prevent further infection, not to find out who is already infected.

    Certainly, that happens, but only so treatment can be taken to prevent infection of an infant.

  6. SpaceyG says:

    Ryan White sure did more to raise AIDS awareness in this country than, say, Rock Hudson. I remember his unwavering courage and strength and honest, articulate character vividly.

    If Ryan White would have wanted a program like this, and I assume he did since his name’s on it (although he could have been manipulated by the adults surrounding him at the time too, for all I know), then I’d let that, a child’s example, have a hand in my decision to support it here in GA, or not.

    Jeez… can I get anymore non-committal today?

  7. Erick says:

    Hahaha. Spacey, the Ryan White program was originally started as a program to fund the monitoring of blood supply in the country. The Baby AIDS program was added to it after he died, on the advocacy of his parents and friends.

    It was originally a state law in New York. The federal add on to the Ryan White program committed federal money to help states carry out the program.

    The program has been highly, highly successful.

  8. Jmac says:

    But couldn’t mandatory testing for all also have an impact on deterring future infection? It would seem to be the same thing for me.

    Wouldn’t something like this fall under the same category such as the law in Georgia that states a couple getting married has to have a certain type of blood test? I remember having to do that to let us know if we could be passing on some rare but awful birth defect to our children.

    It would seem to me that if we require that testing, then logically it would be OK to permit this type of testing.

  9. Decaturguy says:

    the test is being used to prevent further infection, not to find out who is already infected.

    I think that the same case could be made for testing the entire population as a whole. Most people that engage in the behavior that spreads HIV/AIDS do not know that they carry the disease, because, as we all know by now, it could take up to a decade for there to be any physical problems. If they were made aware that they carry the disease, it would impact preventing further infection. I don’t really see the intellectual difference.

  10. ATLawyer says:

    As of July 1, 2003, Georgia no longer requires blood tests (for syphilis and HIV) before issuing marriage licenses. The bill repealing the requirement is here. I haven’t been able to find any additional information about the repeal.

    Most hospitals now routinely require HIV tests and strongly push other tests for genetic diseases as part of their standard prenatal care, so the expectant mothers who aren’t already being tested are likely poor women who receive inadequate prenatal care. Whatever the merits of the Baby AIDS program, I don’t see how mandating HIV testing would do any more to reach those women.

  11. Nicki says:

    Seconding ATLawyer — I don’t think the law would make any significant difference in the positive direction. And with regard to prenatal testing, we already have trouble with poor women failing to seek prenatal care. I suspect a requirement to be tested for HIV would simply discourage more of them from seeking care, whereas an institutional concentration on counseling all women and encouraging them to do testing would improve the number of cases identified. Also, I would be nervous about the use of the information — it’s already routine to seize infants who test positive at birth for drugs, and I’d be shocked if we didn’t also place additional scrutiny on HIV-infected women.

    Also, postnatal retrovirals are also highly effective — testing women at birth, which we already do for the most part, would probably create the same desired effect.

    Finally, what is this, 2nd grade? The bill is not for “Baby AIDS” — that term is inaccurate and cutesy. It’s for prenatal HIV testing.

  12. Erick says:

    Nicki,
    This program is very commonly referred to as the “Baby AIDS” program.

    Decaturguy,
    I have no problem with testing for HIV. And I really think public funds should be committed to the education and encouragement of testing. But were we to mandate everyone get tested, sadly the privacy zealots would run us both out of town.

  13. Chris says:

    Erick,

    Where did that come from? I’m not and the legislation is not making it illegal for HIV+ women to have babies.

    I’m not saying it should be illegal for HIV+ women to have kids – what would you gonna do if they break the law?

    No, I was more thinking about the line “[liberal groups] have for years argued that the privacy concerns of the mother far outweigh all all concerns.”

    While pro-life, I’m also pro-privacy, and don’t think privacy should be thrown to the wolves because of a poorly written SCOTUS decision.

    However, and this is the question I’ve been pondering, if the law can compel a mother to be tested for HIV for the safety of the baby, where do we stop? Alcohol? Caffiene? Red Meat?

  14. Bill Simon says:

    Erick,

    Since YOU support pro-life at nearly all costs, WHAT is the freakin’ purpose of this law?

    If the fetus is tested and found positive for HIV, there is a damn good chance that fetus will have some MAJOR problems if it goes to term and becomes a child.

    There is NO CURE for HIV…so, if the mother takes all the freakin pre-natal drugs in the world, it won’t matter! The fetus already has HIV!!!

    The “humane” thing to do would be that IF the fetus is found to be HIV in the womb, then the mother carrying that fetus SHOULD HAVE THE OPTION to abort.

    But, YOU don’t like abortions, do you? YOU’D rather have the fetus come to term and shrug your shoulders at the kind of the life the fetus-turned-baby will have to endure, and clap yourself on the back that there’s another “life” that has been saved and tell the kid “Good luck, Kiddo, but stay away from MY kids with your HIV!”

  15. Adam Fogle says:

    Bill Simon, you are a sick, sad man.

    There may not yet be a cure for HIV, but there are some phenomenal treatments and a great deal of hope for the future. We all face hardships in life that are out of our control – from genetic diseases to abusive parents to annoying relatives and on and on.

    But a foreseen life of increased hardship is terrible justification for the abortion of a fetus. Every person deserves a chance at life. There may never be a level playing field in this difficult world, we all know that and have accepted it, but at least give the unborn child an OPPORTUNITY to live before giving up on them.

    Anyway, this is a thread about the prenatal HIV testing, not abortion. Sure, you can find a link between the two, but let’s not chase rabbits.

  16. Rpolitic says:

    Bill,
    The strides made in HIV meds and treatment have been huge. Look at Magic Johnson for instance, he has been HIV+ for years and stills lives a full and successful life. Also I know of no other complications and it has been shown that prenatal treatment has prevented many of these children from contracting the diesease. This is not a pro-life argument. In fact it is both a public heatlh and safety issues as well as giving the child a chance at a healthy life.

  17. DavidAtlanta says:

    Erick, which AIDS groups and activists are against the bill? Most AIDS organizations encourage people to get tested and know their HIV status. People who know that they are HIV+ are more likely to take precautions to prevent transmission of the disease to others.

    The only stance from the ACLU that I could find was from 2001 (link), which questions the wisdom of mandatory testing. The case study that they use in the article references the drug AZT, but HIV treatments have come a long way in the past few years.

    I think the objection of the ACLU stems from two issues: (1) Mandatory testing of the mothers, and (2) Mandatory of treatment for newborns found to be HIV+, even without parental consent. Because HIV treatment can be complex, I don’t have an answer to what the best approach is to mandatory treatment for newborns. I’m not sure how far the law should go in mandating treatment for any disease. Maybe someone with better insight could weigh in on that.

    As for mandatory testing of the mother, I think that the issue could be addressed by the opt-out clause. Newborns should be tested without exception.

    Bill Simon, the idea, I believe is to test the mother, not the fetus. It is not a foregone conclusion that an HIV+ mother will pass the virus to her baby. Managing the disease during pregnancy reduces this risk. I believe that mother’s milk can also carry the risk of transmission. (I’m not an expert on the subject, so please correct me if I am wrong on any of this.)

  18. Bill Simon says:

    Really? So, all those medical articles I’ve read where they describe the types of birth defects that result from AIDS-infected and crack-infected mothers are just a bunch of hooey to you, Adam, and to you, Rpolitic?

  19. Calybos1 says:

    I’m not clear on the anti- side of the argument either. What are the privacy concerns? It’s not like the results of the testing will run on the front page each morning; surely doctor-patient confidentiality still applies?

  20. Nicki says:

    Bill, you’re incorrect. Without treatment about 25% of children born to HIV-infected mothers will also develop HIV. But with treatment either in the womb or shortly after birth that percentage goes down. Additionally, the majority of children who are born HIV postive will seroconvert to negative by 18 months assuming that they are not reinfected (generally through breastfeeding). So, HIV testing in general is a good weapon in the arsenal to increase infant health. But should it be mandatory?

    Erick, thanks for clearing that up. But it doesn’t change my objection — why is it that our adult representatives can’t champion a bill that is accurately named?

    The case against mandatory testing is this: 1. Most at-risk infants are born to women who ALREADY don’t receive prenatal care. Even if this were the law, it could not be enforcd except upon women who choose to receive prenatal care. So, more at-risk women would simply avoid prenatal care. 2. As I pointed out, women who are counseled tend to agree to testing if they agree they are at risk. 3. Additionally, mandatory testing is expensive and an infringement upon women’s right to privacy. 4. And a mandatory program places the medical profession in a strange position, as well. 5. And finally, AZT is controversial and its effects upon a woman and her fetus are ones that she might not choose to undergo. 6. Testing all pregnant women given the numbers above is a waste of money.

    In short, a mandatory testing program is legally indefensible, financially undesirable, and ultimately ineffective in preventing the spread of HIV.

  21. JasonW says:

    I consider myself a Conservative Libertarian and I support this bill strongly. It’s one step in fighting the AIDS pandemic facing the country and the world.

  22. Erick says:

    DavidinAtlanta, Act UP has been opposed in the past to this legislation. I don’t know their present stance.

    Niki, I do agree that the name of the program, given by the media actually, isn’t the best name. I completely understand your concerns, but we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    Bill Simon,
    I don’t know why you get wild hairs up your ass and come on here to berate me about something not relevant to the post. Listen to Niki who makes more sense than you. Of course, then you’ll start accusing me of being anti-semitic again and then ask me to take down all such accusations after they’re made, again.

  23. Demonbeck says:

    I just want to state for the record that I am completely against the state giving AIDS to babies.

    Giving aid to babies I support.

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