TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey would become the first state to require both pregnant women and newborns to be tested for HIV under a proposal introduced by the Senate president.
The bill would require all pregnant women be tested for HIV twice, once early in the pregnancy and a second time in the third trimester. Every birthing facility in the state would have to test all newborns in their care.
Senate President Richard J. Codey introduced the legislation on Thursday, which he described as a "no brainer." The Associated Press first reported on Codey's plan in March.
"The key in the fight against HIV and AIDS is early detection and treatment," Codey said Friday. "For newborns this can be a lifesaving measure."
Codey, D-Essex, said the bill stems from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that found medical treatment during pregnancy can dramatically cut mother-to-child HIV transmission.
The Center for Women Policy Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based feminist advocacy organization, opposes mandatory HIV testing, arguing it violates a woman's right to make their own childbearing and medical treatment decisions.
Current New Jersey law requires providers only to offer HIV testing to pregnant women.
Under Codey's proposal, the test would be given unless the mother chooses, in writing, not to have it.
According to the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focusing on U.S. health care issues, four states — Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas — require health care providers to test a mother for HIV, unless the mother specifically asks not to be tested.
Connecticut and New York are the only states that test all newborns for HIV, according to the foundation.
New Jersey has some of the highest rates in the nation for AIDS cases, women with AIDS and pediatric HIV and AIDS cases, according to the foundation.
Codey's bill will be scheduled for hearings in the coming weeks. To become law, it must be approved by both the state Senate and Assembly, and then signed by the governor.