December 1 is observed as World AIDS Day. HIV/AIDS, that shook the entire world of health and medicine in 80s and 90s, is still an unfortunate reality curbing countless number of lives every year.

Spread primarily by unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles and from mother to child during pregnancy, it affects the patient in three stages – acute infection, clinical latency and AIDS.

Initial symptoms include fever, large tender lymph nodes, inflammation of the throat, skin rash, extreme fatigue, sores on the mouth and genitals. As the infection progresses, it compromises the entire immune system causing neurological issues, respiratory tract infections, unintended weight loss and various other health conditions ultimately affecting very organ system in the body.

HIV patients are also at the risk of developing various types of cancers like Kaposis’s sarcoma, lymphoma of the primary central nervous system, conjunctival cancer, Human Papilloma Virus.

Even while struggling to find a medication to completely cure HIV/AIDS, doctors are still grappling with the ways to deal with children born with HIV.

A child gets HIV if the mother was infected with the virus, at the time of pregnancy. The Government of India has made it mandatory for a HIV test for all pregnant women, soon after the conception.

Here are few important points to remember by a HIV infected pregnant woman to safeguard her child from the deadly virus.

  • Doctors start Antiretroviral Therapy to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission and it can be initiated before, during and after pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women with HIV should start taking medicines soon after conception.
  • HIV medicines are safe during pregnancy and they don’t induce any birth defects.
  • These medicines in fact prevent HIV from multiplying and reduce the amount of infection in the body.
  • Doctors prescribe HIV regimen of medicines depending on several factors including the current and past usage of HIV medicines, other medical conditions due to pregnancy and after running a thorough drug resistance testing.

Should HIV Pregnant Women Take Medicines During Labour Too?

Yes. The risk of HIV transmission from mother to child is high during vaginal birth as the baby passes through the birth canal and can get exposed the virus in mother’s blood and other bodily fluids. HIV medicines administered during labour prevent transmission of virus.

Can Cesarean Delivery Reduce Risk of Transmission?

Doctors prefer a scheduled cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of transmission especially in the women with a viral load of more than 1,000 copies/ml.

Should Women With HIV Take Medicines Post Delivery Too?

Taking HIV medicines for life-long prevents it from advancing to AIDS. Talk to the doctor about continuing medication and dosage. Babies born to women with HIV are also administered medicine 4 to 6 weeks after birth to protect the baby any infection that could have passed on to the baby during birth.