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Saving lives through HIV testing

It's concerning that only half of pregnant women in Mexico are tested for HIV and that almost all HIV-positive women ignore their condition
Pregnant woman – Photo by: Francisco Rodríguez/EL UNIVERSAL
24/12/2017
09:10
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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The standards for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, established by the World Health Organization (WHO), demand that countries perform test 95% of pregnant women as a minimum. 

However, in Mexico, not only is this requirement ignored but also, it seems to be far away from being achieved. According to data from public health institutions, only 50% of pregnant women in our country are tested for HIV.

In 2016, Mexico reported a total of 2.2 million of pregnant women yet only 1,169,000 were tested for HIV. As a result, 61% percent of pregnant women in Mexico ignored whether they were HIV-positive.

This is a very serious case of oversight which endangers the lives of thousands of women and their babies. Receiving the news of being HIV-positive is, for some, a harrowing experience but for soon-to-be mothers, it could be even more devastating to know they have transmitted this disease to their newborns.

Nevertheless, tragedy and injustice don't stop there. According to the National Center for Prevention and control of HIV and AIDS (CENSIDA), 88% of pregnant women who are HIV-positive, contracted the disease when they had just one sexual partner.

What all this data proves is that, according to experts, prenatal care in Mexico is currently deficient and is done under poor quality standards. We have the means to prevent the child from contracting HIV yet clinics don't perform the tests to know whether the mothers are infected. And in some states, clinics don't even have HIV tests available. Overall, in Mexico, we are late to diagnose HIV cases, which perpetuates mother-to-child transmission.

The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) is very specific. In their publication “Pregnancy and HIV,” the institution remembered us “it's the obligation of all health services part of the National Health System to offer the HIV test, especially to pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission.”

Today we have better figures than those of 2003 – the year with most cases of mother-to-child transmission – however, it's concerning that only half of pregnant women are tested for HIV and that almost 100% of HIV-positive women ignore their condition. Thousands of healthy lives depend on timely detection. It's our right to demand the tests.

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