New Jersey acting Governor Richard Codey signed a bill requiring doctors to test pregnant women for HIV infection. It will still be possible for women to opt out if they so wish. However, all newborns will be tested if the mothers are either HIV positive or their HIV status is unknown during delivery. Women will receive information on HIV/AIDS from health care professionals – they will learn about the benefits of being tested, what medical treatments are available to treat HIV infection, and how a child can be protected if the infected mothers receive treatment.

Under the new legislation, A4218, the HIV blood tests will be carried out during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. New Jersey is the first US state to implement such legislation (for both mothers and newborns).

Codey is acting governor while Corzine is away on vacation. Codey said the bill will reduce transmission of AIDS from mother to child. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) mother to child HIV transmission rates can be as low as 2% if all pregnant mothers are tested and receive drug treatment, have C-section deliveries and do not breast feed.

New Jersey has the highest HIV infection rate in the USA among African-American women. Codey stressed that total privacy is guaranteed under federal law.

Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a primary sponsor of the bill, said “Early detection is the key to helping people living with HIV/AIDS to live longer with a better quality of life. Currently we have the treatment available to help prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies. This measure is a huge step forward in terms of protecting all babies while helping to educate mothers.”

New Jersey now moves from being an opt in state to an opt out state. In other words, women are able to opt out of a routine procedure, rather than ask to be included in one.

Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-West Orange), said “Early detection and treatment are integral parts of the fight against HIV and AIDS. New Jersey faces some of the nation’s highest HIV rates among women. We must act now to get mothers tested to prevent mother-to-infant HIV transmission.”

Assemblyman Charles T. Epps, Jr. (D-Hudson), said “We must do all that we can to prevent the transmission of HIV by making testing part of routine medical care. Requiring this testing will help to enhance detection, prevent HIV transmission to newborns, and improve the quality of health care delivery in New Jersey for women and babies.”

Assemblyman Robert M. Gordon (D-Bergen), said “New Jersey’s best defense against HIV and AIDS is to reduce the number of people who become infected. This comprehensive approach will ensure that all women have access to testing to further stem the spread of HIV and protect the health of newborns.”

State of New Jersey – Office of the Governor

Written by – Christian Nordqvist