What Happens to a Mother Who Has HIV or AIDS?


If the mother has HIV infection, pregnancy can increase her chances of developing AIDS.

What is HIV / Aids?

A blood test is carried out to detect the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV. A person who tests positive for HIV has a strong possibility of developing AIDS or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, in which case, the person’s immunity or strength to fight infection falls drastically. The person can then pick up all kinds of infections, I.e. colds, respiratory infections, skin infections, etc. If a woman is suffering from AIDS, she can pass the infection to her newborn baby.

A study was done in Zimbabwe, Africa. In Zimbabwe, thirty percent of the population is HIV infected. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months was found to reduce HIV transmission. Breastfeeding beyond six months is not recommended for HIV positive mothers. The introduction, before the age of three months, of solid foods or animal milk to breastfeeding infants, born to HIV positive mothers, was found to increase the risk of transmission of HIV positive mothers.

After the age of six months, the maximum transmission of HIV infection starts. Therefore, the study showed that the more strictly HIV positive mothers breastfeed, especially for six months, the lower the risks of HIV or death for their infants. However, if a woman is known to be HIV or Aids infected and gets pregnant, a recent study has shown the use of 2 standard drugs “azt” and “3tc” can prevent the passing of the virus from the mother to the baby.

Recent research also shows that without treatments, eighteen percent of babies can be infected whereas, with treatment, the infection of babies can be lowered to eleven percent if the two drugs are given when labor begins and continued for a week after birth. The medicine can be given to both the mother when labor starts. It must be given to both the mother and child for a week following until birth.

This is to protect the baby from exposure to HIV contaminated blood and secretions as well as from viruses in the breast milk which causes one-third of all infections in the young. The risk of infection can be further reduced to nine percent if treatment is begun twenty-six weeks before delivery and continued for a week afterward.

A new drug called “Nevirapine” is also known to reduce the transmission of AIDS from the mother to the baby, and costs much less than “azt”. Nevirapine is administered to an HIV infected woman in labor and another dose is given to the baby within three days of birth.

The baby inside the womb is well protected and lies in a sac of fluid which acts as a shock absorber. Gentle bumps should not be a cause of worry. Yes, strong jerks, a push, a kick or trauma can cause harm to the baby as well as the mother.

How does one test oneself to find out?

The Elisa HIV test can be done to find this out. If it shows a mother is HIV positive, two more tests are done to confirm it. It is important that those who test HIV positive and are scheduled for further testing, are given counseling.

The drug nevirapine given to the mother in labor, and to the baby after birth, reduces the chances of transmission of HIV to the baby. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months also reduces the chance of transmission. For babies, the Elisa HIV test can be done at three, six, twelve and eighteen months to check for transmission.

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