Test Everyone and Test Early
Richard Beigi, M.D.
For Dr. Richard Beigi, doing routine HIV screening of his pregnant patients is nothing new. Even though rates of HIV in Pittsburgh are not high, he still screens his pregnant patients early in their pregnancy. "We hope that patients come in early in their pregnancy, that way we can get them treated. When diagnosed early and treated, perinatal HIV transmission is almost 100% preventable," Beigi said. Beigi has had patients that did not seek prenatal care because they were unable to attend regular appointments due to life circumstances. In these cases, Beigi says it is still important to test as soon as possible, "Diagnosing at 12 weeks gives more time for treatment to take effect than diagnosis at 32 weeks, but there is still an opportunity to prevent transmission in the third trimester or at labor and delivery." Beigi pointed out that Cesarean delivery can also be avoided by testing early and reducing the viral load of the pregnant patient before delivery.
Beigi became involved with CDC's One Test. Two Lives. campaign because he wanted to be a part of an educational campaign for obstetrical clinicians that shares the simple steps he and others have taken to incorporate HIV screening into their practices. He believes that sharing the kinds of materials provided by the campaign with his colleagues will increase their ease in incorporating regular HIV testing for their pregnant patients.
Pictured (from left): Margaret Lampe, Marion Johnson, and Richard Beigi
Why is Beigi confident that a little education can go a long way? The HIV test is easy–it is just a blood test," Beigi explained. He feels that providers who screen will learn what he has: talking to patients about testing takes less than a minute and for most patients who are unsure about testing, a simple conversation makes them comfortable with the test. Beigi said, "I really believe it's a good thing to test for. It's so easy, and it has proven interventions that work, which is not that common." Beigi also shared that because HIV testing is recommended during pregnancy, he has not had a problem with insurance reimbursements
The bottom line for Beigi is that HIV testing is quick and simple; and with effective treatments to reduce transmission, especially when detected early, physicians can play a critical role in reducing the spread of HIV.
Beigi is an asset to the One Test. Two Lives. campaign serving as a reviewer for the currently in-development curriculum on perinatal HIV prevention for OB residents and nurse-midwives. Acting on his passion to educate others about testing, Beigi also promoted the campaign to members of the Infectious Disease Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in an e-mail blast before the 2008 annual conference. He is engaged in other key research in the fight against HIV/AIDS including a cutting-edge, government funded research study testing microbicide use in pregnant women. Beigi is an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh, Magee-Women's Hospital.