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New Consumer Materials Aid in the Effort to Reduce the Number of Babies Born with HIV

Press Release Date: December 1, 1995

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Philip R. Lee, M.D., today released new public information materials that will help pregnant women who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) make informed decisions about medical interventions that can reduce mother to child (perinatal) transmission of HIV, the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

In the United States alone, about 7,000 infants are born each year to HIV-positive women. As many as 2,000 of these infants will acquire the virus in utero, during childbirth or through breastfeeding. HIV/AIDS is the seventh leading cause of death in children 1-4 years of age and the fourth leading cause of death among women 25-44 years of age.

The new consumer information translates into lay language the results of a National Institutes of Health clinical trial known as the AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG) 076, which showed that use of the antiretroviral drug zidovudine, commonly known as azidothymidine or AZT, reduced the rate of perinatal transmission of HIV by two-thirds.

The women in the study either were given AZT, or a placebo, beginning between 14 and 34 weeks gestation and continuing for the remainder of the pregnancy and delivery. For the first six weeks of life, AZT was also given to the babies of the women who received the drug. For children of women who did take AZT, the rate of perinatal transmission fell from one in four to one in twelve.

"The Clinton Administration is taking action to get this information into the hands of as many pregnant women with HIV as possible, along with what we know about the risks and benefits of AZT use during pregnancy," said Lee.

To that end, a public information campaign will target the population at greatest risk with a consumer brochure, posters, flyers, videotapes and audiotapes in English and Spanish; the brochure also is available in Haitian Creole.

The multi-media educational materials were developed by an Interagency Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the Columbia University School of Public Health. The information in these materials is presented in a straightforward and objective manner, to help women weigh the risks and benefits of AZT therapy during pregnancy. To put a real-life face on the decision-making process, the materials include stories of women who have had to make this decision.

The educational materials will be distributed through federally-funded facilities, such as clinics and community health centers. In addition, HHS' Health Care Financing Administration today announced special joint efforts with four states to reach pregnant women with the information.

Information also can be obtained by calling the HIV/AIDS Treatment Information Service (ATIS), toll free, at 800-448-0440 or 800-243-7012 (TTY service for the deaf). Public service announcements in English and Spanish also will run on radio stations targeted to African-American and Hispanic audiences in the 40 cities with the highest prevalence of HIV infection in women, to enhance their access to this information.

"We encourage pregnant women who have HIV to get early prenatal care, talk to a health care provider, and get the facts about AZT," said Lee. "Ultimately, it is up to her to make an informed decision about what is best for herself and her baby."

For additional information contact, AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 ; or Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864.

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.

 

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