HIV Testing and Pregnancy: Medical and Legal Parameters of the Policy Debate

HIV Testing and Pregnancy: Medical and Legal Parameters of the Policy Debate
The object of this report is to analyze the following questions with a view to informing that policy development:

  • Should HIV testing be offered to all pregnant women, or only to those at increased risk of HIV infection?
  • Should HIV testing of pregnant women be voluntary, or should it be mandatory?
  • Should physicians be required to secure the informed consent of pregnant women before proceeding with HIV testing, or can this requirement be abrogated?
  • Should the HIV testing of pregnant women be characterized as “routine”? and
  • What added supports are necessary to ensure the effectiveness of provincial and territorial policies for the HIV testing of pregnant women in Canada?

Directly at issue in this debate is the extent to which the rights of an HIV-positive pregnant woman may be overridden “if at all” to protect the health of the foetus she carries. Central to the analysis of the preceding questions, therefore, is the need to confront the potential for conflict between maternal and foetal interests presented by the HIV testing of pregnant women and to strike a balance between them in accordance with the current state of Canadian law.

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