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LAST YEAR, it was cause for celebration. In clinical trials zidovudine cut the risk for mother-to-child transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by two thirds.
This year, as the basis for new federal recommendations that all pregnant women receive HIV testing and counseling, the finding has been cause for protest. Activists fear that conservative legislators and policy makers will use the clinical data to justify mandatory testing or compulsory treatment for pregnant women.
The US Public Health Service's draft guidelines were published in the Federal Register in late February. The date coincided with "HIV Infection in Women: Setting a New Agenda," a national conference in Washington, DC. Activists, physicians, and HIV-positive women used the meeting as a forum to voice their concerns about how best to balance women's own medical needs with those of their infants.
At times the sessions were heated, reminiscent of years past when gay men mobilized
Voelker R. Foes of Mandatory Maternal HIV Testing Fear Guidelines Will Lead to Reprisals. JAMA. 1995;273(13):977-979. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520370015002