Preventing Mother To Child HIV Transmission

pregnant woman showing belly wearing orange top( — In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of children under 13 living with AIDS who were infected by their mothers, 66% were African Americans. This sobering 2005 statistic illustrates a huge problem in the African American community with regard to pregnant HIV-positive women accessing drugs.

In the United States, the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is less than 2% with proper antiretroviral treatment and care. Nevertheless, the lack of access to medical services for an HIV-positive woman during pregnancy or labor can greatly increase the risk of infecting her child. Here’s what you need to know in preventing mother-to-child transmission:

• Mother-to-child transmission is the most common way children become infected with HIV.
• A woman can pass HIV to her baby while pregnant, during labor or through breastfeeding.
• Today, most pregnant women get an HIV test as part of their prenatal care.
• Antiretroviral drugs are now available to help prevent a baby from contracting HIV.
• When women do not get treatment, 13 babies out of 50 are at risk of contracting HIV.
• Only 1 baby out of 50 is at risk of being infected with HIV, when women begin treatment during pregnancy.
• A pregnant woman with HIV can opt to deliver her baby via cesarean section to help protect her baby from becoming infected with HIV.
• Breastfeeding should be avoided for mothers with HIV.
• Five babies out of 50 are at risk of getting HIV when women begin treatment during labor, or their babies get treatment soon after birth, or they both get treatment at these times.

In addition, there are two different testing approaches available: Opt-in (pre-HIV test counseling and an agreement to an HIV test) and Opt-out (HIV test included in standard prenatal tests and an agreement not to be tested). Check your state’s HIV testing laws for approaches in your area.

For information about reducing HIV transmission from mother to child, please visit:,