DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Shorter HIV Treatment for Pregnant Women

By Caty Weaver

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Doctors say they can shorten the length of drug treatments for pregnant women who are infected with the virus that causes the disease AIDS. The drug treatments keep the mother from passing the virus to her unborn child. However, the drugs are very costly and many women in developing countries can not pay for them. Shortening the treatment periods could help solve this problem.

For years, industrial nations have treated H-I-V-infected pregnant women with the drug A-Z-T for periods of three to six months. This A-Z-T treatment has lowered the spread of H-I-V infection from mother to baby to about seven percent.

Now, a team of French, Thai and American doctors has been studying shorter and less costly treatments. Marc Lallemant [LA-leh-MAHN] of the Research Development Institute in Paris led the study. He says his team has found success with treatments that costs hundreds of dollars less than those used in the United States and Europe.

The researchers published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine. They say three short A-Z-T treatment plans provided new babies with H-I-V protection that is similar to the longer-term treatments. More than one-thousand-four-hundred women took part in the study in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

One group of women took A-Z-T for the last twelve weeks of their pregnancy. Another group took the drug for the last five weeks of pregnancy. Their new babies were given A-Z-T either for three days or for six weeks after birth. About seven percent of the babies got H-I-V when both mothers and babies received the longer treatment. However, the rate of infection was about the same in cases where either the mother or the baby got the longer treatment.

Lynne Mofenson [MAH-fen-son] is an AIDS expert at the United States National Institute for Child Health. Doctor Mofenson says the study gives new hope for successfully treating more women and their babies. She says it shows that drug treatment is effective even for the babies of women who start it later. She says in those cases doctors can increase the amount of time they give the drug treatment to the newly born baby.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Caty Weaver.

Voice of America Special English