99 percent of babies born to HIV positive mothers are uninfected
15 May 2008
The findings of the largest study into mother-to-child HIV transmission show an infant infection rate of just 1.2 percent following the recommended interventions.
This is a drop from more than 20 percent in the mid 1990s, before effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) became available - and the first time that such low rates of infection have been observed at population level.
Women who are aware of their HIV infection at the early stage of pregnancy are able to make a number of important choices about the best way to safeguard their health and protect their baby. Antenatal testing is recommended to all pregnant women in the UK and Ireland and acceptance rates are very high.
Most HIV positive women now take a combination of ART drugs during pregnancy. While caesarean section delivery reduces the risk of infection to the child, this study showed that in many cases the drugs are so effective that a normal delivery is possible.
Data were collected on 5,151 HIV positive pregnant women in the UK and Ireland between 2000 and 2006, and the findings are published this month in the journal AIDS.
Lead author of the study, Claire Townsend (UCL Institute of Child Health), said, "Our findings are greatly encouraging. They demonstrate that if women are tested for HIV early enough in pregnancy for ART to be initiated, the risk of infection to their baby is very low indeed. This emphasises the importance of achieving and maintaining a high uptake of antenatal HIV testing on a national scale."
Work into the study was carried out at UCL Institute of Child Health, in collaboration with the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The Health Protection Agency and the Medical Research Council funded the research.
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Image: A mother-to-be