The Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach is celebrating 20 consecutive years of zero HIV transmission from mother to baby, while receiving care at Miller Children’s. The Bickerstaff Center has consistently focused on leading research and treatment initiatives to maintain zero transmissions since the 1990s.
The task of delivering an HIV-negative child isn’t an easy one. HIV-positive mothers at the Bickerstaff Center are required to take medication throughout their pregnancy to reduce the amount of virus in their bloodstream. The sooner expectant mothers get tested for HIV, the better.
“The importance of testing pregnant mothers is the window of opportunity to prevent transmission,” says Jagmohan Batra, M.D., Bickerstaff Center, Miller Children’s. “The sooner we have mothers on HIV-therapy during their pregnancy, the less likelihood of transmission to the baby.“ Even if it’s not caught early in the mother, we still have the opportunity to prevent transmission by giving medication during the delivery period.”
After birth, in addition to testing, infants are put on HIV medications for the first six weeks of life. Patients go through routine testing and evaluations intermittently for more than a year and a half to ensure HIV-negativity.
“It’s important for all HIV-positive women to understand that they can have an HIV-negative child and that the multidisciplinary team at the Bickerstaff Center can guide them through their pregnancy,” says David Michalik, D.O., Bickerstaff Center, Miller Children’s. “Regardless of one’s background, social barriers or personal barriers, we work together with each patient to ensure a healthy pregnancy that leads to the birth of an HIV-free infant.”
The success the Bickerstaff Center experiences is not without a partnership with the BirthCenter at Miller Children’s. “Trying to prevent HIV-positive mothers from transmitting to their child is extremely laborious, so we work hand in hand with the obstetrics unit at Miller Children’s,” says Audra Deveikis, M.D., medical director, Bickerstaff Center, Miller Children’s. “Working with them is critical; they are extremely important and allow us to provide maximum efficiency for our patients.”
Physicians at the Bickerstaff Center encourage that everyone, not only pregnant mothers, get tested for HIV despite stigmas, which are significant and often place one’s health in extreme danger. “There’s still a lot of stigma associated with HIV and its diagnosis. It’s important for us to ensure that we are doing whatever we can to change the face of HIV. A significant number of people are misinformed,” says Dr. Batra. “We need to continue to push testing – there is no one who’s immune to HIV.”
In honor of World AIDS Day, Miller Children’s will hold a celebration to raise awareness on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 from noon – 5 p.m. in Houssels Forum at Long Beach Memorial located at 2801 Atlantic Ave.
Experts will speak on the history of World AIDS Day and progress made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. A pediatric art exhibit and music provided by Victoria Bailey will be featured. Light snacks and refreshments will be served. For more information, visit MillerChildrens.org/Bickerstaff.