METHODOLOGY: Cord blood samples from a pilot screening programme for congenital hypothyroidism in 1995 at Ipoh city and surrounding district hospitals were screened anonymously for HIV 1 and 2. HIV status was determined using chemiluminescent technology. Positive samples were retested using the Genelavia Mixt assay.
RESULTS: A total of 4927 samples were tested. The ethnic breakdown included 51.7% Malays, 18.9% Chinese, 14.3% Indian, 2.3% Others and 12.9% unknown. The geographical distribution of samples was 73.9% urban, 24.2% rural and 1.9% unknown. The seroprevalence of HIV positivity was 3.25 per 1000 deliveries (95% CI: 1.92-5.16). Seroprevalence was higher for samples from rural and Malay mothers.
CONCLUSION: The high seroprevalence in this study suggests that the spread of HIV is far wider than that anticipated by mandatory national reporting. It also supports antenatal screening and the use of antiretroviral therapy as an important strategy to reduce perinatal transmission.