Perinatal HIV transmission

Understanding Perinatal HIV Transmission

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight off infections and other diseases. HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, such as blood or semen, and is a sexually transmitted infection. However, the virus can also be passed from a mother to a baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding. This is known as perinatal HIV transmission.

For mothers living with HIV, it is important that they get tested in order to make sure they have the virus under control, and to reduce the risk of passing it to their child. During pregnancy, the mother should be receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in order to keep the virus under control and reduce the risk of transmission to the baby.

If the virus is not under control with ART, the risk of perinatal HIV transmission is highly increased. It is estimated that 30-40% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers can become infected without preventive measures.

Symptoms Of Perinatal HIV Transmission

Babies born to HIV-positive mothers may show no symptoms at birth. However, as the virus begins to take hold and the baby's immune system continues to weaken, they may begin to show signs of infection. These can include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Rashes
  • Weight loss
  • Failure to thrive

Prevention Of Perinatal HIV Transmission

The first step in preventing perinatal HIV transmission is to ensure that all pregnant women are tested for HIV in early pregnancy. If the test is positive, the mother should immediately begin ART, which is highly effective in reducing the risk of transmission. In addition, the mother should be monitored throughout the pregnancy to make sure the virus is well-controlled.

If the mother's viral load remains undetectable, the risk of transmission is significantly reduced. However, mothers should also have their viral load tested again at delivery, and babies should receive medication shortly after delivery to reduce their chances of becoming infected.

It is important for mothers to remain in treatment and for babies to be tested starting at 18-24 months old. These steps drastically reduce the risk of perinatal HIV transmission and can help ensure that babies born to HIV-positive mothers are healthy and safe.