SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has commended Illinois for its efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Illinois was the only state asked to present its program, “Safety Net of Perinatal HIV Prevention in Illinois,” at a recent CDC conference addressing mother-to-child HIV transmission. Illinois’ program has become a model for other states and countries looking to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“The CDC’s recognition of our efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV is just another example of how the State of Illinois is leading the way in healthcare. Along with community partners, we have worked to make sure every pregnant woman in Illinois receives mandatory HIV counseling as well as HIV testing and support services if needed. Through the implementation of our Perinatal HIV Prevention program we have dramatically reduced the number children born in Illinois with HIV and have saved lives,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
In a recent letter from the CDC, Steven Nesheim, M.D., Leader of the Mother-to-Child Transmission Team with the CDC wrote, “The integration of the Perinatal Rapid Testing Initiative in Illinois (PRTII), the Perinatal Hotline and Enhanced Perinatal Case Management is one of the exemplary Perinatal HIV prevention programs in the United States. As a result of the team’s efforts, the number of HIV-infected infants in Illinois has undoubtedly been substantially reduced and many of the hardest-to-engage women have gained access to critical HIV care and services that they may have otherwise not received.”
Illinois’ success can be seen in the most recent data, which shows from October through December 2007 health professionals knew the HIV status of newborn infants and their mothers 99.97 percent of the time upon discharge from the hospital.
“Most children with HIV were inadvertently infected by their mothers during pregnancy. However, more than 99 percent of mother-to-newborn transmissions of HIV can be prevented if a pregnant woman is tested for HIV as early in her pregnancy as possible, and treated with medications before and after the birth of her child. That’s why it is so important to know the HIV status of pregnant women,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.
In August 2003, Gov. Blagojevich signed into law the Perinatal HIV Prevention Act mandating health care professionals provide HIV counseling for every pregnant woman and offer HIV testing. Implementation of the Perinatal HIV Prevention Act has led to states such as California, Texas and Michigan, and other countries such as Russia and the Ukraine, contacting the Illinois Department of Public Health about using Illinois as a model to set up their own programs to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The work Illinois has done to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV not only serves as a model for Perinatal HIV prevention programs in other states, but also for other areas of HIV prevention. The concept of mandatory counseling, HIV testing and support services can be applied to populations with some of the highest risk factors such as men who have sex with men and African Americans.