HIV Transmission : Mother to Fetus Risk

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HIV Transmission : Mother to Fetus Risk
For women who are pregnant and HIV positive, fetal development and health is a primary concern. The
fetus, while growing in utero, is completely safe from HIV infection, but that does not mean the infant -
once born - cannot contract HIV. Blood and vaginal fluids are the transportation fluid of the HIV virus
and infants come into direct contact with these fluids during labor and delivery.
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There are cultures that test for HIV during prenatal care and those who do not. Moreover, there are
societies where structured prenatal care is near non-existent. The first step in preventing the
transmission of HIV from mother to fetus is knowing HIV status. Mothers who are tested during
pregnancy can benefit from the same HIV medications as those who knew of their HIV status before
becoming pregnant.
STD or HIV testing can take place as late as the first stages of labor. According to the BMC Pregnancy
and Birth Journal, pregnant women can choose to have an HIV test during labor and still receive the
medication they need to help fend off HIV transmission to the fetus.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services states that HIV medications are
prescribed to pregnant women in two different methods. If a pregnant women needs to be treated to
improve her own health during pregnancy, or maintain current medications to assure continued good
health, medications can be given from the first days of pregnancy. If the mother is in good health,
medications to protect the unborn fetus from HIV transmission can be postponed until after the first
trimester when the risk of side effects is lower.
HIV Medications, CD 4 Count, and Viral Load
CD4 count and viral load are not typically taken into account when starting HIV medications to prevent
transmission to an unborn fetus. It is important that the mother receive medical care and maintain good
health throughout the pregnancy in order to support healthy fetal growth.
As the pregnancy progresses, CD 4 or T-Cell count may be taken to ensure HIV medications are
working to suppress the virus. If T-Cell counts lower dramatically during pregnancy, highly active
antiretroviral therapy (HAART) may be prescribed. HAART therapy commonly involves taking at least
three HIV medications to substantially reduce the presence of the HIV virus in blood and help CD4 or
T-Cell Counts rebound.
It is never too late to protect a fetus from HIV transmission. Transmission most often occurs during
labor when blood and vaginal fluids are exposed to the fetus. If the virus is suppressed before birth,
transmission risk is far lower.
"Health Information for HIV Positive Pregnant Women." Aids.Info. National Institutes of Health. Web.
8 July 2010.

Kongnyuy, Eugene J., Enow R. Mbu, Francios X. Mbopi-Keou, Nelson Fomulu, Phillip N. Nana,
Pierre M. Tebeu, Rebecca N. Tonye, and Robert JL Leke. "Acceptability of Intrapartum HIV
Counselling and Testing in Cameroon." BioMed Central | The Open Access Publisher. BMC Pregnancy
and Childbirth, 27 Feb. 2009. Web. 01 July 2010.