HIV-positive mother charged
Newborn contracts virus after woman
fails to notify hospital of status
      Natalie Alcoba
      National Post

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A mother who concealed her HIV-positive status from doctors while delivering her baby faces criminal charges after the child tested positive for the virus.

Police said the 29-year-old woman gave birth to a baby boy, her second child, at a Hamilton hospital last September. Her failure to tell doctors about her medical condition "resulted in the baby not getting the proper care," said Staff-Sergeant Jack Langhorn, who is in charge of the Hamilton police victims of crime branch.

The mother was arrested on Thursday and charged with failing to provide the necessities of life and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

"It's probably the first case of its kind, certainly in the Hamilton area, and I would not be surprised if it was unique in Canada," Staff-Sgt. Langhorn said.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, was diagnosed with HIV prior to the birth of her first child in 2003.

She told doctors about her condition then and followed all measures prescribed to ensure the safe delivery of the baby. The woman and her newborn were put on a regimen of AZT, the antiviral drug given to HIV patients. The mother was not permitted to breast-feed, which is considered to increase the chances of transmission, Staff-Sgt. Langhorn said. That baby is healthy today.

In March of last year the woman, pregnant again, went to the same Hamilton hospital, where she was given the same guideline. She stopped taking AZT in August, Staff-Sgt. Langhorn said, and went to a different hospital for the delivery. There she concealed her HIV status, he said.

Sometime after the birth, the hospital learned about the mother's HIV status and began giving the baby the antiviral drug, but the boy tested positive for HIV.

National Post 2005