Pregnant and with HIV? These are the answers to your questions

Pregnant and with HIV? These are the answers to your questions

Although HIV affects women around the world to varying degrees, most of them do not feel they are at risk of this infection. Due to the stigma that, 40 years ago, associated this virus with gay men or people engaged in sex work, many women who are not in this group continue to believe that they are “safe”.

However, when going to the doctor to care for a pregnancy, an HIV test is usually (or should be) recommended as part of routine procedures. It is there that many of those who live with the virus have just become aware of their condition.

If this is your case, it may be that you are facing many doubts about your future and that of your baby. Fortunately, the outlook is very promising thanks to currently available treatments and strategies. Consult the following questions and search them for the doubts that you still have to solve.

1. If I was diagnosed with HIV, could I pass it on to my baby?

Yes. Although the probability is relatively low (around 20%) during pregnancy, there is also a risk of transmission at the time of delivery (due to the amount of blood involved) or during lactation.

2. Can the chance of passing HIV to my baby be decreased?

Yes. The first step to achieve this is to start antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible. By taking the medications in a timely manner, it is possible to reduce the possibility of transmission to less than 5%, according to data from the New York State Department of Health, United States.

When your baby is born, if your medical team considers it necessary (for example, if the amount of virus in your blood did not drop to a minimum level with antiretroviral treatment), they will be given special antiretroviral treatment to reduce the risk of HIV infection. .

3. Can antiretroviral medicines harm me or my baby?

Many drugs to treat HIV have been found to be safe for the woman and the unborn baby. However, some others can cause problems or birth defects. But don’t worry, the medical personnel specialized in HIV know exactly which medicines can be used during pregnancy.

4. When will I know if my baby has HIV or not?

For this there are two types of tests that can be done to babies born to mothers with HIV. The first is an antibody test, and it’s important to know that while all babies in these circumstances will test positive for the first few months, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have the virus, it just means they’ve been exposed to the virus from his mother’s body.

The second test is based on a technology known as PCR, which directly looks for the virus in the blood (and not for the antibodies that fight the virus); for this reason, a test of this type can show whether or not the baby has HIV. This test should be done in the first days of life, and repeated after weeks or months, as determined by the medical protocol. The PCR test is the only sure way to know if a baby was born with the virus.

5. Even with HIV, how can I carry my pregnancy in a healthier way?

First, seek the specialized treatment that HIV infection requires. Take the antiretroviral medicines that are prescribed there correctly, do not modify or suspend the treatment because you run the risk of HIV becoming resistant. The rest of the care is the same as for any pregnant woman: exercise, don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol, don’t use drugs, eat a healthy diet, and maintain an adequate weight.

Remember that, for pregnant women and for anyone, starting antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible is the way to stay healthier for longer. If you have not started your treatment, or if you suspended it and want to resume it, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Look for our offices in your country and find out about our services.