Pregnant Women Recieve Free Tests for Disease

Starting this year, pregnant women across China will receive free screenings for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B.

And if they test positive, they will be treated at hospitals to prevent them from transmitting the diseases to their children, according to a document issued by the Ministry of Health on Monday.

"This is the first nationwide health policy meant mainly to prevent such infections from spreading from mothers to children, and the central government will spend at least 700 million yuan ($106 million) a year on it," said Wang Ning, deputy director of the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention.

"Thanks to the known ways of preventing the transmission of disease between mothers and children and the new policy, more innocent newborns will be protected from contracting such viruses," he said.
Wang predicted the policy will prove useful in controlling epidemics, particularly of syphilis.

Because of a lack in China of mandatory screening for pregnant women, the frequency at which mothers transmitted syphilis to their children went from 7 cases out of 100,000 live births in 2003 to 57 cases in 2008, according to statistics from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wang said he has great hopes that the policy will undermine that increase.

"It's particularly helpful for the relatively poor areas, which can't afford such services for locals," he added.

In addition to regular health checks and care for women during pregnancy or labor, the document also said hospitals and clinics should provide intervention services to prevent mothers from giving their babies AIDS, syphilis or hepatitis B.

It said women should get tested for those three diseases in their first health check during a pregnancy, ensuring that infections can be identified and remedies applied early on.

The document also said a wider range of clinical and counseling services should be made available to the public, especially to women of childbearing age, migrant workers and the young.

It said the topics discussed should include the correct use of condoms and other contraceptives, safe sexual practices and planning for conception. The document called on hospitals to test for the three diseases, and confirm the presence of an infection by reviewing the positive cases found in the first results.

It said infected women in pregnancy or labor should be informed of the likely results and consequences of their conditions, and receive advice on how to cope with them.

The document also said hospitals should keep the test results confidential, and advise the spouses or partners of infected women to get themselves tested.

The document said infected women should be closely monitored in pregnancy and after giving birth.

(Source: China Daily)

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