Antiretroviral medications can prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to infant during pregnancy and labour. Doctors can provide advice about the safest and most appropriate combination of drugs based on the individual. Some medications are not recommended during pregnancy, and newer medications may not have been tested in pregnancy, but several others are safe for use.

Doctors can also recommend whether vaginal delivery or a C-section would be safest for you and your baby. After birth, infants will immediately be tested for HIV and receive antiretroviral medication for preventive purposes.

How do HIV medications affect babies?

During their first few months of life, infants will get special medical care. They should receive antiretroviral medication (which is given in a syrup) for 6 weeks to ensure the prevention of HIV infection. They should also get follow-up HIV testing until the age of 18 months. Your doctor can talk to you about the best schedule for testing.

The use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to baby started in 1994, so it’s not known yet exactly what kind of long-term effects there might be for people exposed to them in utero and as infants. Studies on the effects into adulthood are ongoing, but no serious impacts have been identified in infants and children at this point.

What if a baby has HIV?

In the rare case that a baby has HIV, the child will require special care to monitor the virus. This includes regular doctor appointments, blood work, and medications. With good medical care and support, children living with HIV can have healthy lives.