THURSDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Rates of HIV infection in infants are significantly higher among blacks and Hispanics than whites, and preventive measures are needed to reduce the disparity, a new government report says.
Although the number of HIV-infected infants has declined overall, among black babies, the rate of perinatal HIV infection -- meaning transmission at the time of birth -- is 23 times higher than for whites, and among Hispanics, the rate is four times higher, according to findings published in the Feb. 5 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The average rate of perinatal infection in the United States is 2.7 per 100,000 live births, the report indicates. For blacks, the rate is 12.3 per 100,000; for Hispanics, 2.0 per 100,000; and for whites, 0.5 per 100,000.
Overall, while black and Hispanic children under age 1 account for only 37 percent of the population, they represent 85 percent of all perinatal HIV diagnoses, the authors noted.
The researchers, who analyzed data from 34 states from 2004 to 2007, noted that transmission from an HIV-infected mother to her child can be significantly reduced through preventive measures.
And they noted some good news: The annual rate of perinatal HIV diagnosis dropped between 2004 and 2007, dipping from 14.8 to 10.2 per 100,000 among blacks and from 2.9 to 1.7 per 100,000 in Hispanics.
But further reductions are necessary and achievable, the authors said, pointing to a transmission goal of less than 1 percent for infants born to HIV-infected women and fewer than one transmission per 100,000 live births.
Primary HIV prevention in women is key, the authors noted, and efforts should be specifically directed towards black and Hispanic women. All HIV-positive women who are pregnant should have access to quality health care and take advantage of preventive measures, including early treatment with antiretroviral medications, the report stated.
For the best outcomes, the authors recommend the following:
- HIV infection should be diagnosed before or early in pregnancy
- All moms-to-be should receive prenatal care
- HIV-positive women should follow an antiretroviral medication regimen throughout pregnancy
- A cesarean delivery should be scheduled at 38 weeks' gestation if the virus has not been suppressed
- Antiretroviral medication should be taken during labor and delivery
- Newborns exposed to HIV should receive antiretroviral medication within the first hours after birth and for the first six weeks of life.
Overall, "the total number of annual perinatal HIV infections in the United States has decreased approximately 90 percent since 1991," the CDC authors wrote in their report.
SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Feb. 4, 2010