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World AIDS Day 2017: Can HIV transmission from mother to baby be prevented?

Read this to know if it is possible to save the baby from an HIV risk at birth

There can be two scenarios in which there is a risk of HIV transmission from the mother to baby: one, when the mother discovers the infection after conception, second, if she is HIV positive and conceives. However, in such conditions, the urgency is to save the baby from getting an infection. Till about a decade ago this could have been an impossible thought, but today with the advances in the antiretroviral therapy or ART medication (drugs used to treat HIV patients) a baby to an HIV mother can be saved or be free of the virus.

We spoke to Dr Gauri Gore, consultant gynaecologist, Zen Hospital, Mumbai to know how a baby of an HIV mother can be saved from contracting the disease. Here is what she has to say:

  1. There are three ways in which the mother-to-child transmission of HIV can happen: During pregnancy, at labour and delivery or during breastfeeding.
  2. There is no way that will help to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV which is 100 percent guaranteed, but pregnant women are prescribed ART medications which help to reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted through the placenta. These medications can reduce the risk greatly.
  3. The chances of mother-to-child transmission of HIV also depend on the severity of the infection, the grade of the infection and to what extent it has affected the mother. The risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is low when HIV is detected as early as possible during pregnancy (or before a woman gets pregnant) and treatment is started immediately to prevent the transmission to the baby.
  4. The medications given to an HIV positive mother are ART medications of B and C grade which are absolutely safe during pregnancy and have no side effects reported till now.
  5. In an HIV positive mother, the chances of mother-to-child transmission of HIV during a vaginal birth is high so most often a caesarean section is done.
  6. Babies born to HIV positive mothers receive HIV medicines for 4 to 6 weeks after birth. The HIV medicines reduce the risk of infection from any virus that may have entered a baby's body during childbirth.
  7. Since mother-to-child transmission can happen through breast milk too, mothers are usually not allowed to breastfeed their babies after birth.

Image source: Shutterstock

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