From driving exams, to hearing screenings and even
college entry SATs, life is filled with tests. June
27th marked the 11th annual National HIV Testing Day – drawing
attention to one of life’s more important tests.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) estimates that 180,000-280,000 Americans are
HIV positive and yet unaware of their status. Not knowing
can mean the difference between life and death.
Each year, nearly two million U.S. women infected
with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
become pregnant, creating circumstances that can dramatically
affect not only their lives, but those of their unborn
Many STDs can be passed from mother to child during
pregnancy (through the placenta), and/or during the
birthing process (birth canal). Some of the most common
include syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepititis B
and herpes. HIV can be passed from mother to child
through the placenta, birth canal and also during breastfeeding.
The effects of STDs on pregnancy are wide-ranging,
resulting in stillbirths, preterm deliveries and low
birthweight births. Several types of birth defects
including brain damage, blindess, deafness and liver
disease can also be attributed to STDs.
Even if not planning on having a baby, women of childbearing
age should be screened for HIV and other STDs, given
that half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Those who
are pregnant, should be tested at their first prenatal
visit, even if they have been screened in the past. Women
must proactively ask their doctor for the test, in
the event he or she does not perform it routinely.
Should a bacterial infection be discovered (eg: chlamydia,
gonorrhea, syphilis) it can be treated with antibotics.
This will protect both mother and child.
Viral-based diseases, including HIV and herpes cannot
be cured, though certain medications can be administered
to help reduce symptoms and to protect the baby during
pregnancy and the birthing process. In fact,
the proper administration of antiretroviral drugs during
pregnancy can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV
transmission to just one to two percent. In many cases,
cesarean deliveries are also performed to further protect
babies during delivery. Without any intervention,
the likelihood of transmitting HIV during pregnancy
and delivery is about 25 percent in the United States,
according to the CDC.
Submitting to an HIV or other STD screening test is
very a personal decision. However, when you’re
pregnant, or thinking about having a baby, this decision
will directly affect others.
here to order free educational materials.
here for information on STDs and pregnancy.
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