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Birth. 1997 Sep;24(3):165-72.

Prenatal HIV screening in pregnant women: a medical-legal review.

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SUNY Health Science Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Syracuse 13202, USA.


Identifying pregnant women's human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection status provides them with the opportunity to seek appropriate treatment and to take measures to prevent vertical and horizontal transmission. Prenatal screening program options include targeting at-risk women, testing on a voluntary basis, or mandating prenatal HIV screening. When examining these options, the number of cases identified, programmatic costs, long-term health care costs, and legal implications must all be considered. Research indicates that targeting at-risk women misses a significant percentage of seropositive women, although programmatic costs may be lower. It is difficult to ascertain the difference between voluntary and mandatory programs with respect to the number of cases identified and treated. As a result, long-term savings are difficult to calculate. Mandatory programs would have the greatest direct costs and place the greatest burden on the woman's constitutional rights. By making HIV counseling and testing a routine component of prenatal care, voluntary programs could achieve the benefits of prenatal HIV screening without violating the woman's civil liberties.

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