March 10, 2017 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “44% of youth ages 18 to 24 years living with HIV did not know they had HIV” while “youth aged 13 to 24 accounted for an estimated 22% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States”. Due to the large number of teens and young people living unknowingly with HIV, it’s important for pregnant and parenting teens and young adults to be screened for HIV during their pregnancy.
There are 3 ways an HIV-positive pregnant or parenting mother can transmit HIV to her child:
- during pregnancy,
- during childbirth and
- while breastfeeding.
However, with early testing mom and baby could receive proper treatment to lower the risk of HIV being passed to the baby. According to AIDS.gov, if the pregnant mom is HIV-positive, “treatment with a combination of HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) can improve your health and greatly lower the change that you will pass HIV to your baby before, during, or after birth”. Even if the mom to be has not been tested prior to going into labor, the hospital can conduct a rapid HIV screening to try to prevent transmission to the baby.
Healthy Connections Medicaid covers prenatal treatment for pregnant mothers and will cover the cost of HIV screening. Babies born to mothers enrolled in Medicaid will automatically be approved for Medicaid for the first year of life. Since mothers who are HIV positive should not breastfeed, they may want to apply for South Carolina Women, Infants & Children (SC WIC) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to assist with the cost of formula and food.
To find out if you qualify for Healthy Connections Medicaid or SNAP you can complete a QuickCheck. To apply for SC WIC, visit scdhec.gov.