Being HIV positive and pregnant does not automatically mean that your child will develop the virus. If a pregnant woman does not have any treatment for the condition, then the unborn baby has between 20 and 45% chance of being infected with the virus. The virus can be transmitted during the pregnancy through the placenta, during the birth via contact with bodily fluids and can also be passed on through breast milk.
However, in the UK nine out of ten women with the HIV virus are diagnosed before or during pregnancy. Most women are treated with anti-retroviral drugs during their pregnancy and take preventative measures during and after the birth; this can reduce their child’s risk of catching the virus to under 2%.
Having a caesarean section also reduces the risk to the baby, but if the HIV is well managed, a natural birth may not increase the risk either.
Testing a child for HIV is difficult, because every new born baby whose mother is HIV positive has antibodies to the virus in their blood. These antibodies will disappear over time if the child does not have the HIV virus. This can take up to 18 months, so you will not be able to tell for sure if they have contracted the virus until they are nearly two years old.
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