HIV and Pregnancy

What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that affects the immune system, increasing your risk of diseases. It specifically targets the CD4 cells of the immune system. As the number of CD4 cells reduce, the chances of falling sick due to an infection increase.

What is AIDS?

If one becomes ill due to HIV, he or she is said to have AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). With AIDS, you can get diseases such as pneumonia, certain cancers and dangerous infections that your body would normally be able to resist with a healthy immune system.

How Long does it take for AIDS to Develop?

It can take months or years for one to develop AIDS after getting the HIV infection.

How does HIV Spread?

One can become infected by encountering certain body fluids such as blood and semen. A pregnant woman may not know she has HIV until she is tested. Without receiving treatment, there is a high likelihood of passing HIV to the baby either through the placenta or at birth when the baby is exposed to the mother’s blood and other body fluids. HIV testing is therefore routinely performed during pregnancy and with timely intervention, your child’s risk of getting HIV can be greatly reduced.

How is HIV Treated during Pregnancy?

Your doctor will recommend a combination of anti-HIV drugs to decrease your viral load (amount of HIV in the blood) and keep your CD4 count high. This should keep you from getting sick and decrease your baby’s risk of getting HIV. Both viral load and CD4 counts are regularly monitored throughout your pregnancy. A caesarean section delivery may be recommended if your HIV levels are high. Extra care is taken to prevent infection during and after the operation.

What Precautions are taken After Birth?

After birth, your baby will also receive anti-HIV medication and is tested on several occasions over a few months and then after 1 year to make sure that HIV is not present. Women with HIV are advised not to breastfeed as the virus is present in breast milk.

What are the side effects of anti-HIV medication?

Anti-HIV medication may have certain side effects such as headache, nausea and muscle aches. It can occasionally cause anaemia, osteoporosis and liver damage.

Will these Treatments Prevent my Baby from Getting HIV?

In most cases, following these measures will help you remain healthy and prevent your child from getting HIV, but a small risk of transmitting the disease still exists.


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