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AIDS Test Planned for Babies’ Blood Without Consent

October 21, 1990

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Tests for the AIDS virus will be conducted on unidentified blood samples taken routinely from newborn infants in Pennsylvania without parents’ consent, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The program is designed to measure the presence of the virus in the general population.

The state Department of Health begins the federal program next month, but the project will include about 50,000 blood specimens taken from infants since July 1 and stored, The Pittsburgh Press reported.

Dr. Bobby Jones, epidemiology director for the state Bureau of AIDS, said the state didn’t publicize the program because parents might have refused all medical tests on their new babies.

″We don’t want it to have an adverse impact on the metabolic screening we do,″ Jones said.

Jones said there was no need for the state to announce the program because parents won’t learn the results. The tests will be performed on samples after they are stripped of the donor’s name and birth date.

Some parents objected to the additional testing without their consent; others did not.

Janice Stifter of Plum said she was unaware the state was storing her baby’s blood.

″But it wouldn’t have bothered me if I had known,″ she said. Her daughter, Laura, was born Aug. 10 at Magee Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh.

″They shouldn’t be doing any tests without letting us know,″ said Duane Szymanski, father of 11-week-old Samantha. ″They’re using her blood.″

Mothers complained of being kept in the dark about their babies’ health.

″If my child had AIDS and I wouldn’t know, if seems kind of senseless,″ said Robbie Wojciewchowski. ″I really think they should let the parents know the results.″ Her daughter, Kimberly, was born Aug. 22 at Allegheny General.

State figures show 4,226 people have suffered or are suffering from fully developed AIDS in Pennsylvania since 1981, when records were first kept. There are no statistics on people found to be carrying the virus without developing symptoms.