Pregnant woman are being tested during their last trimester for the virus that causes AIDS as part of a new effort to save young lives in Texas.
Under the law, which took effect this month, health care providers must conduct the HIV testing unless the woman objects.
Allison Lowery with the Department of State Health Services told the Austin American-Statesman that mothers-to-be generally will be billed for the test, but the cost is expected to be covered by insurance or Medicaid.
"We believe this new testing will save children's lives," Lowery said. The plan also brings Texas in line with HIV testing recommendations made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006, according to Lowery.
Texas previously required doctors and other medical providers to test pregnant women for HIV at the first prenatal visit and at the time of birth.
Experts say a woman's HIV status can change during her pregnancy, potentially without her or her doctor knowing it, by the time she goes into labor.
The new law says a woman who tests positive for HIV can start getting antiretroviral drugs immediately to reduce the chances of infecting her baby. The infant gets treatment at birth and for the next six weeks.
Without treatment, one in four pregnant women infected with HIV will transmit the disease to the baby, according to the Department of State Health Services. Treating the woman during her pregnancy can cut the risk of transmission to about 1 percent.
The number of women transmitting HIV to babies is small, an estimated 100 to 200 U.S. babies a year, said Dr. Judy Levison, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine.
"No woman should deliver without knowing her HIV status," Levison said.