There is no sure-shot way of eradicating HIV. The virus can be kept subdued and dormant so that AIDS does not develop, and the immune system functions better for a longer period of time and the onset of life-threatening infections and cancers get delayed.
HIV gets transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected partner, by sharing needles, razors with an infected person, transfusion of infected blood.
From a mother to her baby, transmission happens during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. This called perinatal transmission.
Symptoms of pregnancy generally include fever, headache, sore throat, achiness, fatigue, and swollen glands. Sometimes the symptoms do not show up after the virus has been contracted up until a given period of time, hence as a rule of thumb, mothers should get themselves tested during their prenatal hospital visits.
HIV can complicate pregnancy in the following ways:
- There can be more instances of pre-term birth or stillbirth
- There are more chances of preterm birth when the mother is HIV-infected
However, by monitoring the potency of the HIV virus, taking regular medicines (if the medicines are not taken as per strict schedule then the virus can develop immunity against the dosage), avoiding breastfeeding, or embracing C-section reduces the chances of the transfer of disease from mother to child.
Mothers should get themselves tested periodically, especially for their CD4+ cell count (the amount of the virus in the blood). If the CD4+ counts are too low, antibiotics would be administered to help protect the mother from developing pneumonia or other infections, in the face of a weakened immunity system.
Pregnant women would be advised to continue with anti-HIV medication during the pregnancy phase. However, make sure that the doctor confirms that these medications are marked child-safe and pregnancy-safe. The dosage may be needed to be changed or the cocktail (combination of drugs) be altered.
Also, women who haven’t so far known that they are suffering from the disease or haven’t been on medication so far should start their medication as soon as possible, irrespective of whether they plan to go ahead with the pregnancy or not.
In case the pregnancy is all smooth, after delivery also, the mother should continue with her medication. The baby of the infected mother should also be tested after birth. Some babies will show a positive result on the test right after birth, some test positive within two weeks, and some may take up to a few months.
After detection and confirmation, an infected baby needs antiretroviral treatment right after birth. If the mother is carrying the virus, and even if the baby’s initial results are negative, the baby will still be put on medication for the first six weeks.
In addition, the baby will be given medication at four to six weeks to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and also from other illnesses that may threat the baby’s newly-developing immunity system from diseases like pneumonia.