Perinatal (Mother-to-Child) HIV Transmission
Perinatal HIV Transmission
Perinatal, or mother-to-child HIV transmission happens when a pregnant person living with HIV passes HIV to their baby. It can happen during pregnancy, delivery, and through breastfeeding.
Frequency of Perinatal HIV Transmission
Without treatment, 25 to 30% of babies born to a mother living with HIV will get HIV. However, if mothers are aware of their HIV infection and treated along with their infants, the chances of the infant getting HIV are less than 2%.
In Minnesota, the rate of perinatal transmission decreased with the availability of testing and treatment for pregnant women and their babies. During 1982-1994 the transmission rate was 25%, but has since decreased to less than 1.9% among babies born in 2015-2017.
In the U.S., through December 31, 2015, 11,600 cases of perinatal transmission have been reported. In Minnesota, a total of 12 cases of perinatal transmission have been reported since 1999.
Preventing Perinatal HIV Transmission
Perinatal transmission of HIV can almost always be prevented with proper medical care. All pregnant women should get tested for HIV and share the test results with their prenatal care provider. If a woman has not received prenatal care she should request a rapid HIV test at delivery. Providing the proper medication to pregnant people living with HIV and their newborn babies will cut the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby from 25% to 2% or less.
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS in Children
Children living with HIV are frequently slow to reach important developmental milestones such as crawling, walking and speaking. Many do not gain weight or grow normally.
Like adults living with HIV, children living with HIV can develop life-threatening opportunistic infections. The type of infections is different for children and adults, with serious bacterial infections occurring more often among children.
Diagnosing and Treating HIV in Children
HIV infection can be diagnosed in most infants by 1 month of age, and in all infants by 6 months using special viral diagnostic tests. These tests look for the HIV virus produced by the body instead of antibodies to the virus; most adults are diagnosed using an antibody test. Because newborns have some of their mother’s antibodies to HIV in their blood for a time, the special tests need to be used.
Infants and children living with HIV can be treated using HIV antiretroviral drugs. While these drugs will not cure HIV, they will slow down HIV and prolong a person’s life. Children living with HIV should see their doctor regularly to make sure they are receiving the proper medications and vaccines against other diseases.
For More Information
Information about HIV testing, including how to find a free and confidential HIV test.
Pregnancy and HIV
Information from the Office on Women's Health about HIV and pregnancy. It includes steps to take before and during pregnancy to prevent HIV transmission.