Hiv Testing in Newborns

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This paper presents an ethical analysis of the mandatory newborn HIV testing law enacted in New York State. The law was passed as an effort to decrease maternal transmission of HIV, by treating infants born to HIV positive mothers immediately after birth with AZT. Newborn testing was promoted by the legislative and medical community following the overwhelmingly positive response from HIV infected pregnant women who were given AZT in the ACTG 076 clinical trials. Pregnant mothers who were given AZT had a markedly lower transmission rate than mothers who had not received it. This paper examines this newborn testing policy from a Utilitarian perspective to ascertain if the goals of the policy are feasible. The potential advantages, as well as the failures of using this policy are discussed. Implementations to improve the policy are also presented.

Ethical Dimensions of Mandatory HIV Testing of Newborns

in New York State: A Utilitarian Perspective

Description of Policy

In June of 1999 all hospitals in the state of New York were notified by the New York State Department of Health that beginning August first, 1999, a radical new approach to HIV screening was to be initiated. According to the policy, "for those women without prenatal HIV test results who decline HIV testing during delivery, hospitals are required to conduct expedited HIV testing of all newborns" (New York State Department of Health, June, 1999). This policy was the consequence of a heated debate in the legislature over the results of anonymous HIV screening performed on pregnant women in the state of New York (Cameron, 2002). New York State had been engaged in anonymous testing of newborns since the late 1980s, and this testing consistently reve...

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...d November 24, 2004, from

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Wolf, L. E., Lo, B., Beckerman, K. P., Dorenbaum, A., Kilpatrick, S. J., Weintrub, P. S., et al. (2001). When parents reject interventions to reduce postnatal human immunodeficiency virus transmission. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 155(8), 927-933.

Zulueta, P de (2000). The ethics of anonymised HIV testing of pregnant women: a reappraisal . Journal of Medical Ethics, 26, 16-21.

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