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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). A person may be “HIV positive” but not have AIDS. An HIV infected person may not develop AIDS for 10 years or longer. Hence it is important to get tests done regularly to prevent HIV from developing into AIDS by getting proper care at an early stage. HIV can be transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected partner, by sharing needles (or even razors) with an infected person, transfusion of infected blood or from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. 

There are no medications that can eradicate HIV, but there are therapies that help suppress the virus so that your immune system functions better for a longer period of time and the onset of life-threatening infections and disease is delayed. 

How to lower the risk of transferring HIV to your baby?

It is necessary to undergo an HIV test when you are planning to get pregnant or as soon as you know that you are pregnant, even if you have been tested before. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be transmitted from an infected mother to her newborn child. Mothers with higher viral loads are more likely to infect their babies. However, no viral load is low enough to be “safe.” Infection can occur any time during pregnancy

Being HIV positive increases the risk of preterm birth and still birth. Also risk of passing HIV to your baby increases. Some of the ways you might pass the virus to your baby are:

  • During pregnancy, virus can pass through placenta and infect the baby.
  • During birth, through contact with body fluids or mother’s blood.
  • During breast feeding, by breast milk.

However, you can reduce your baby's risk to less than 1 percent if you get appropriate treatment for yourself during your pregnancy. This includes monitoring your viral load, taking appropriate medications, avoiding certain pregnancy procedures, having a c-section if your viral load is too high, and not breastfeeding. 

All babies born to infected mothers test positive for HIV. They have antibodies to HIV even if they are not infected because the mother’s antibodies are passed to the baby. This does not mean the baby is infected. They will test positive for about 18 months. Regular tests should be scheduled to know the correct test result for further medical care of the baby.

Studies show that HIV-positive women who get pregnant do not get any sicker than those who are not pregnant. Becoming pregnant is not dangerous to the health of an HIV-infected woman. However, there is some risk of birth defects caused by any drug during the first 3 months of pregnancy. If a mother chooses to stop taking some medications during pregnancy, her HIV disease could get worse. Any woman with HIV who is thinking about getting pregnant should carefully discuss treatment options with her health care provider.