Many pregnant African women avoid HIV screening

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Washington, Nov 20 (ANI): A large number of pregnant women in Uganda, Africa deliberately avoid being tested for HIV, increasing the risk of mother-to-child transmission, says a study.

In a new paper, researchers discussed how mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be easily and cost-effectively prevented using a short course of antiretroviral therapy.

However, this is effective only if the mother is willing to be screened for HIV.

Anne Buve, a member of Faculty of 1000 Medicine, has discussed the recent and "worrying" findings of this study, which she describes as "quite sobering".

There is currently an opt-out policy for HIV testing even though the HIV prevalence in Uganda is 6.4 percent.

One year after the implementation of the opt-out policy, fewer than 60 percent of pregnant women were tested for HIV in 2007 in the majority of countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, the exception being Botswana where voluntary counselling and subsequent testing rates are higher.

Programmes of syphilis screening during pregnancy already faced the same problem in Uganda.

However, the researchers suggested that women, who attended an antenatal clinic that did not have HIV testing on site, did so in order to avoid HIV testing.

If confirmed, this finding is worrying.

Buve said: "there should be more studies like this one that look into why people do not have access to or refuse to accept interventions that could prevent HIV infection among their offspring".

The study has been published in AIDS journal. (ANI)

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