Women of reproductive age are increasingly at risk for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Recent advances in reducing perinatal transmission have resulted in official guidelines on universal HIV education, counseling, and voluntary testing of women of reproductive age, especially pregnant women. This study assesses to what extent the maternal child health (MCH) sites are implementing these guidelines with their female patient population (including pregnant women) and examines the barriers that prevent them from implementing these guidelines.Method
The study uses survey data from 92 hospitals and community health centers offering MCH services in Chicago regarding their providers' practices on HIV education, counseling, and testing, implementation of zidovudine (ZDV) therapy to reduce perinatal transmission, and the barriers to implementing these services. In addition, 20 taped in-depth interviews were conducted with experts to examine the barriers to universal implementation.Results
Almost half (45% of perinatal care and 50% of family planning providers) of the institutions are not consistently offering HIV testing. One-third of those institutions that offer testing are not offering pretest counseling. Thirty-nine percent of the perinatal care providers in these institutions are not providing posttest counseling to HIV-negative women. Over one-third (35%) of these institutions reported that they are not set up to implement ZDV therapy during labor and delivery. Almost half (49%) had no protocols for ZDV therapy in place. Barriers to implementation included lack of provider training, limited staff time, physician resistance, unavailability or avoidance to seek perinatal care by high-risk women, cost, absence of a statewide and hospital-specific plan, lack of reproductive choice focus in posttest counseling, lack of provider knowledge about the administration of ZDV or its availability during labor, and lack of consumer education on perinatal risk reduction.Conclusions
MCH sites and their providers need assistance to overcome many barriers they face to implement universal HIV education, counseling, and testing of women of reproductive age.