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Lack Of Antenatal Screening Scandalous

Lack Of Antenatal Screening Scandalous

Antenatal screening for HIV for pregnant women to save their babies and extend maternal life expectancy should be available from every district health board in New Zealand as a matter of course says New Zealand First’s health spokesperson Barbara Stewart.

“In 2004 Waikato Hospital infectious diseases physician Graham Mills called on the then Minister of Health to fast-track a policy offering pregnant women an HIV test. This was after five children were infected with HIV at birth in 2003 and three more had been diagnosed by October 2004.

“Four babies were born in 2005 with the HIV virus because their mothers did not know they were HIV positive. In March 2006 the Waikato DHB became the first district health board to routinely offer HIV screening.

“A year long pilot study in the Waikato screened about 9000 pregnant women for HIV and found two. The test for HIV is estimated to cost $9 and the direct medical cost of caring for an HIV infected child is around $250,000.

“Nine district health boards will be offering antenatal HIV screening by next June. Several more are considering it. All well and good if you happen to be pregnant in the area of one of the more enlightened DHBs but what about the rest of the country?

“The attached answer to a written question from 2006 demonstrates the delays caused by our ponderous health system but it is still unbelievable that a first world country with a relatively small population cannot routinely screen pregnant women for diseases such as HIV, syphilis and chlamydia which put them and their babies at avoidable risk,” said Mrs Stewart.


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