The transmission of HIV between mother and child is a particularly important part of the HIV prevention and treatment campaigns in that the opportunity for the HIV virus to infect an unborn child is prevalent in every aspect of pregnancy right through to delivery and breast feeding an infant.

HIV infection in mothers does not mean that the virus will be transmitted to their unborn child but a course of drugs will be recommended to protect their unborn child. Each case is treated individually and dependant on the stage of HIV infection present in the mother.

Some of the Facts

HIV can be transmitted through breast milk and is the cause of approximately 30% of HIV infection in infants.

Difficult births that cause trauma to the child increases the risk of HIV transmission including obstetric procedures that require the use of implements to assist with the birth.

Premature infants are at a higher risk of contracting HIV than full term births.

Reducing the chance of HIV transmission from mother to child

As soon as a woman finds out that she is pregnant supplements should be taken which have shown to decrease the infection rate. These are, Vitamin A, Iron, Folate and a multivitamin.

By using an antiseptic vaginal cleanser to remove any blood or mucous in the birth canal before delivery is recommended.

Episiotomies should be discouraged to prevent the infant from coming into contact with infected blood.

Medical treatments for commonly occurring infections or conditions such as unrinary tract infections, pneumonia, cervicitus, candidiasis and diarrhoea are treated aggressively and separately to reduce the chances of HIV infection between mother and child.

Anti retroviral treatments are used for mothers during pregnancy and are required to be carefully managed. Post natal antiretroviral treatment for both mother and child reduce the chances of contracting the HIV virus.

Essentially, to reduce the transmission rate from mother to child a pregnant woman carrying the HIV virus needs to be completely aware of all of the possible high risk situations and take the preventative measures prescribed by her doctor to reduce the chance of passing on the HIV virus to her child and every woman who falls pregnant should take a voluntary HIV test to determine their status. HIV is everyones responsibility and prevention is the most important aspect of preventing the spread of the virus.