Mother to child HIV transmission occurs when a lady with HIV is pregnant and infects her infant or even her unborn child. This transmission is possible throughout pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.

The chances of mother to child HIV transmission are greater when the mother has no treatment for HIV. Meanwhile, if they are able to receive treatment early on, their chances of transmission are greatly reduced.

In addition, if you or your partner participate in activities that place you at risk for HIV, you should be retested during your third trimester. Also very suggested is encouraging your partner to get testing.


Signs that indicate mother to child HIV transmission may include the following:

  • problems with the child’s growth
  • slow development
  • impaired growth
  • bacterial infections

If you detect any of these symptoms in your newborn child, contact your pediatrician immediately.


Mother to child HIV transmission may be detected in an infant from 1-6 months old with the use of viral diagnostic tests. These types of tests check for the HIV virus generated by the body rather than antibodies to the virus; the antibody test is used to identify the majority of people. Because neonates carry HIV antibodies from their mothers in their blood for a period, additional testing is required.


With HIV antiretroviral medicines, HIV-positive infants and children can be treated. Although these medications will not cure HIV, they will reduce its progression and extend a person’s life. Children with HIV should see their doctor on a frequent basis to ensure they are receiving the correct drugs and immunizations.


If you have an HIV-positive partner and are considering pregnancy, discuss PrEP with your healthcare physician (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may be an option to prevent you and your unborn child from contracting HIV while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.

Following delivery, you can prevent HIV transmission to your newborn by feeding him or her formula or pasteurized human milk from a milk bank. This method is advised if a detectable viral load is present.

Meanwhile, if you have an undetectable viral load throughout pregnancy and intend to breastfeed, you can discuss this with your healthcare practitioner and devise a strategy for doing so safely.

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