NEW HIV testing for pregnant women may prove crucial to the lives of five babies whose mums didn't know they had the disease.
Since the decision in July 2003 to routinely offer HIV screening during antenatal visits, five pregnant women in Greater Glasgow have tested positive for the virus.
These results have allowed health workers and infected mums to take the necessary precautions to significantly reduce the risk of this life threatening infection to these babies.
Dr Syed Ahmed, Consultant in Public Health Medicine for NHS Greater Glasgow, welcomed the success of the testing. He said: "Without antiviral treatment and delivery precautions, one in six babies born to HIV positive women will become infected.
"Although it's 18 months from birth before it can be confirmed that a baby doesn't have HIV, diagnosis of the mother and appropriate delivery measures reduces the likelihood to one in a hundred."
Dr Ahmed went on to explain that NHS Greater Glasgow's move has been part of a national drive to cut down on the number of babies being born with the virus, and comes after heterosexuals (rather than gay men or intravenous drug users) have become the largest group of new diagnoses in Scotland.
He added: "HIV positive mums-to-be are also being given the option of a caesarean delivery and are encouraged to bottle feed rather than breastfeed – again cutting down on the risk of infecting the baby.
"The earlier we know a woman is HIV positive, the better chance we have of preventing mother-to-baby transmission and extending and improving the woman's life as a mum."
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
1 The mother will usually be offered the antiviral treatment, AZT. This reduces the amount of virus circulating in her body reducing the risk of the baby contracting the virus. The baby will also be given an antiviral treatment after birth. Without antiviral treatment, the risk of transmission from mother to baby is about 15%.
2 HIV positive mums-to-be are usually offered a caesarean section – this halves the risk of infecting the baby.
3 They will also be encouraged to bottle rather than breastfeed, as this will also halve the risk of infecting the baby.