AIDS Foundation of Chicago interim president and CEO John Peller penned a great column on the “Mississippi baby” story in the Windy City Times, pointing out what we can do about HIV now, thanks for including PACPI’s work with women and infants!
Peller says, “The Mississippi baby shows that pregnant women with HIV need access to programs like the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative, which helps vulnerable moms deliver healthy, HIV-negative babies. If the Mississippi baby’s mother had access to such a program, her daughter may have been born into this world HIV-free.”
Here at PACPI, we work with the most vulnerable of women who are HIV-positive and need additional support and links to care and services. Our programs help women and families just like this family in Mississippi. We work to prevent transmission of perinatal HIV by focusing on the mother’s health and addressing needs in her life.
On any given day this means our clients are getting a ride to prenatal appointments, receiving assistance applying for WIC, getting a referral for a mental health provider, and applying for housing so she won’t have to be homeless with a baby on the way. It can mean a case manager is helping one mother write a resume at the library in Lake County, while a case manager on the South Side responds to a Hotline call to meet a woman who was just diagnosed with HIV for the first time and has no idea if her six month old is infected or not.
We do not have all the details about the Mississippi mom but what we know for sure is that people living with HIV need to be in care and to get there we must be proactive about regular HIV testing – even during pregnancy. The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a letter this April recommending repeat third trimester HIV testing for all pregnant women in Illinois. This is another step in the right direction to safely and cost-effectively prevent HIV transmission without judgment and to make services available to all people.