New Jersey Requires HIV Tests For Pregnant Women, Infants

Armen Hareyan's picture

New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey (D), who was standing infor Gov. Jon Corzine (D) last week while he was out of the country,signed a bill (S 2704) into law that will require all pregnant womenand some infants in the state to be tested for HIV unless womenchoose in writing to opt out of the test, the NewarkStar-Ledger reports (Adarlo, Newark Star-Ledger,12/27/07). The New Jersey Assembly and Senate in June voted 74-5 and37-0, respectively, to approve the bill that Codey introduced in May.

Previous state law required health care providers to offerHIV tests to pregnant women. The new law requires pregnant women tobe tested for HIV as early as possible in their pregnancy and againduring the third trimester as part of routine prenatal care, unlessthey opt out. In addition, physicians and health care providers wouldbe required to provide pregnant women with information aboutHIV/AIDS, the benefits of being tested, available medical treatmentand how treatment can reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIVtransmission. The law also requires infants to be tested for HIV ifthe mother is HIV-positive or if her HIV status is unknown at thetime of birth. The state has about 115,000 births annually and hadseven infants born with HIV in 2005 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report,6/25/07). The new law is scheduled to take effect in six months(Peters, New York Times,12/27/07).


"We can significantly reduce the number of infections tonewborns and help break down the stigma associated with the disease,'Codey said, adding, 'For newborns, early detection can be theultimate lifesaving measure." Riki Jacobs -- executive directorof the New Brunswick, N.J.-based HyacinthAIDS Foundation, the state's largest AIDS service agency -- saidthe law will not help women who do not receive prenatal care. "Weneed to focus on getting people into care and keeping them in care,'Jacobs said, adding, "That is our most potent preventionweapon."

According to the AP/ChicagoSun-Times, some women's groups and the AmericanCivil Liberties Union say the new law deprives women of theauthority to make medical decisions. Maretta Short, president of theNational Organizationfor Women of New Jersey, said, "Women's privacy rights andchoices are as constitutionally valid as any other citizen,regardless of reproductive status" (AP/Chicago Sun-Times,12/26/07).


Related Editorials

  • New Brunswick News\tTribune: There is "little question" that the\tlaw will halt the spread of HIV and improve treatment in the state,\ta News Tribune editorial says, adding that it is\t"simply incredible that this small step was never taken\tbefore." It has "long been clear that government leaders\tmust do everything within their power" to reduce the spread of\tHIV, the editorial says, concluding that testing pregnant women and\tsome infants is one "very reasonable way" to accomplish\tthat goal (New Brunswick News Tribune, 12/29/07).


  • Newark Star-Ledger:\tNew Jersey was "right to enact" the law that requires HIV\ttesting for pregnant women and some infants, but testing "must\tbe done in a way that does not give any woman reason to be concerned\tabout the consequences of seeking prenatal care," a Star-Ledger\teditorial says. According to the editorial, HIV testing should be\t"part of caring, informed treatment" and "should not\tbe presented as an accusatory confrontation." The editorial\tadds that "as with all medical testing and treatment, this\tmandate must be carried out with scrupulous respect for accuracy and\tprivacy" (Newark Star-Ledger, 12/29/07). \t


  • Washington\tPost: The passage of the law "without the hysteria,\trancor and fear that informed the nation's initial response to the\tAIDS epidemic" shows how "far we've come," a Post\teditorial says. According to the editorial, women could decide not\tto receive the test, but it is "hard to imagine anyone opting\tout" since CDC\testimates that such testing, along with other practices, can reduce\tmother-to-child HIV transmission to less than 2% (Washington\tPost, 12/30/07).

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