Mother to child transmission: risks and prevention
If no care is taken to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, about a third of children born to HIV-infected women will be infected, including 20% infected before or during delivery, and another 10%-15% infected from breastfeeding (approximately 0.5% per month).
HIV transmission from mother-to-child is almost entirely preventable.
If you are pregnant, and if you live in a country with a lot of unexplained HIV infections, it’s a good precaution to get tested for HIV during antenatal care. Ensure that the blood test is safe. If you are HIV-positive, it says nothing about your sexual behaviour or your spouse’s behaviour. But it is important to know, so you can protect your unborn child.
If you are infected, you can protect your baby by starting yourself on antiviral treatment, no matter your stage of infection.ii In addition, babies of HIV-positive mothers should receive antiviral drugs after birth to help them resist infection.
Technology and programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission have been getting better year-by-year. If you are HIV-positive and pregnant, or know someone who is, ask around to find the best program to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Check with churches, NGOs, public hospitals, and private doctors to see what is available.
i Piwocs EG. HIV/AIDS and infant feeding: risks and realities in Africa. Washington DC: USAID, 2000.
ii WHO. Rapid Advice: Use of antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant women and preventing HIV infection in infants, version 2. Geneva: WHO, 2010.