Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV in Botswana: An Ethical Perspective on Mandatory Testing
Clark, Peter A.
Developing World Bioethics 2006 March; 6(1): 1-12
Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV represents a particularly dramatic aspect of the HIV epidemic with an estimated 600,000 newborns infected yearly, 90% of them living in sub-Saharan Africa. Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, an estimated 5.1 million children worldwide have been infected with HIV. MTCT is responsible for 90% of these infections. Two-thirds of the MTCT are believed to occur during pregnancy and delivery, and about one-third through breastfeeding. As the number of women of child bearing age infected with HIV rises, so does the number of infected children. It is apparent that voluntary testing in Botswana has made some valuable inroads in decreasing perinatal HIV transmission, but the statistics showing the increased rate of HIV infection among women 15-24 years of age are not very promising. After reviewing all the pertinent scientific data it is clear that mandatory HIV testing of all pregnant women in conjunction with the implementation of a full package of interventions would save thousands of lives - mothers, newborns and others who could be infected as a result of these women not being aware of their HIV status. If the protection and preservation of human life is a priority in Botswana, then it is time to allow for mandatory HIV testing of all pregnant women, before it is too late for those who are the most vulnerable. To do less would be medically inappropriate and ethically irresponsible.
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