The Reality Of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) During Pregnancy

Editorial Team

The joy of a woman is to be able to have a child of her own. A lot women living with HIV have a lot of questions regarding pregnancy and delivery. Most people want to find out if it is possible to give birth without transmitting the illness to their baby.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). A person may be “HIV positive” but not have AIDS. An HIV infected person may not develop AIDS for 10 years or longer. A person who is HIV positive can transmit the virus to others when infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids come in contact with broken skin or mucus membranes.

Nigeria Health Watch reported in June,2016 that, the official HIV prevalence by UNAIDS in Nigeria is 3.2% among the adult population, giving a total estimate of 3.4 million Nigerians living with HIV, and not 5 million as widely reported by Nigerian newspapers recently. The most recent national prevalence survey for HIV carried out in Nigeria in 2013/14, undertaken by the National AIDS and STI Control Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health, put overall HIV prevalence among women attending antenatal clinics in Nigeria at 3.0%.

According to Premium Times Nigeria, in October, 2016, a United States Agency for International Aids (USAID) funded program said through Management Services for Health Organisation, the USAID Prevention and Organisational Systems-AIDS Care and Treatment (PRO-ACT) that no fewer than 94,141 pregnant women were HIV/AIDS positive in Zamfara.

HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding is called Perinatal Transmission. Perinatal HIV transmission is the most common way children are infected with HIV.

According to The National Agency for Control of AIDS, mother-to-child transmission is the most common way that children become infected with HIV.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that, all women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant take an HIV test as early as possible before and during every pregnancy. This is because the earlier HIV is diagnosed and treated, the more effective HIV medicines, called Antiretroviral Treatment (ART), will be at preventing transmission and improving the health outcomes of both mother and child.

Advances in HIV research, prevention, and treatment have made it possible for many women living with HIV to give birth without transmitting the virus to their babies. The annual number of HIV infections through perinatal transmission have declined by more than 90% since the early 1990s. Today, if a woman takes HIV medicines as prescribed throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and provides HIV medicines to her baby for 4-6 weeks, the risk of transmitting HIV can be 1% or less.

In some cases, a Cesarean delivery can also prevent HIV transmission. After delivery, a mother can prevent transmitting HIV to her baby by not breastfeeding and not pre-chewing her baby’s food. For babies living with HIV, starting treatment early is important because the disease can progress more rapidly in children than adults. Providing ART early can help children with perinatal HIV live longer, healthier lives.

The Journal of Perinatal Education advises that perinatal education for pregnant women with HIV warrants a special session on nutrition as early in the pregnancy as feasible. Continued monitoring and counseling throughout the pregnancy may be helpful in providing the infant with the best start possible.




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