March 18, 2003
A Connecticut law requiring doctors to notify pregnant women about HIV counseling and testing has significantly decreased the number of infected newborns. The rate of HIV-positive mothers transmitting the virus to their baby dropped from 11.9 percent in 1995 to 1.9 percent after mandated screening in 1999, according to the Advocate of Stamford. Under the new law, if expectant mothers refuse testing, newborns are tested without the mothers' consent. "With the screening law, every pregnant woman is screened," said James Hadler, a state epidemiologist. Before the mandatory screening law was passed, roughly 30 percent of mothers were screened statewide, identifying 70 percent to 90 percent of those infected, Hadler said. From 1995 to 1999, before the law, 60 to 65 babies were born with HIV each year in Connecticut, he said. Now the average annual number of babies born with HIV in Connecticut is less than one.