More Research Needed on AZT Fetal Effects

"Whose Life Is It?" (Feb. 7) was an important look at the complexities surrounding pregnant women and HIV. As Pamela Warrick wrote, the AZT study was halted early because of promising preliminary results and AZT was administered to all participants in place of the placebos.

We know AZT reduces transmission between mother and fetus, but we don't know the long-term effects of this drug, an intense cancer therapy, on infants or the pregnant mothers. Studies show that babies subjected to heavy doses of other chemotherapies develop tumors and other maladies. AZT is a toxic drug that many adults cannot sustain for extended periods. More research is needed.

While we encourage women--and everyone--to test for HIV voluntarily, we do not support mandatory testing of any kind in the name of public health. When people suggest mandatory testing of pregnant women based on the AZT study, they are assuming many things about a woman's life and access to appropriate care for her and her unborn child, not to mention the unknown consequences of AZT on newborns.

URSULA ARNDT, R.N., Family and Pediatric Program, AIDS Service Center, Pasadena

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