Increased knowledge of this disease has allowed for the development of ways to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the unborn baby.
Despite scientific advances in its control and treatment, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) remains a global health crisis. According to the latest figures from UNAIDS, in 2021, there were 1.5 million new cases, and 650,000 people died worldwide from causes related to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This translates to one death every minute of the year, despite the availability of highly effective treatments for HIV infection.
In 2022, there were 15 cases of HIV per 100,000 women, and of these, 1.5% were pregnant women. However, this does not mean that they cannot have children. There is a possibility of transmitting HIV to the baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding, which is known as vertical transmission.
Science and increased knowledge of this disease have led to the development of ways to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the unborn baby. If the pregnant woman is properly treated and her viral load is undetectable, the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby is less than 1%, according to the Pregnancy and HIV report from the Office on Women's Health.
What should I do if I have HIV and want to get pregnant?
Planning a healthy pregnancy with your treating doctor is possible. Follow his instructions and take the appropriate medications to maintain your well-being. If not already on treatment, it is necessary to start treatment before attempting to become pregnant, as it reduces the chances of transmitting the virus to the baby during this process.
Additionally, keep in mind that the doctor must prescribe medication that is safe to use during pregnancy. Transmission of HIV to the baby is more common in the later stages of pregnancy or during delivery, so extra precautions should be taken. Studies have also shown that treatment works best in preventing HIV transmission to a baby if it is started before pregnancy or as early as possible if the woman is already pregnant.
What should I do if I am diagnosed with HIV during my pregnancy?
Take preventive measures, starting with tests to detect the viral load in the blood. In addition, you should initiate treatment to prevent complications during childbirth and prevent the transmission of the virus to the baby. Being pregnant does not exempt a woman from contracting HIV. Many of the symptoms may not be present during the gestation period, making it challenging to diagnose this condition. Therefore, it is essential to undergo all necessary tests and follow the doctor's recommendations during pregnancy and before childbirth.
"After more than 40 years of fighting against HIV, significant progress has been made in access to therapy and virus control. The efforts of scientists, governments, civil society, and the pharmaceutical industry have aimed to promote timely diagnosis and provide access to innovative treatments that guarantee a better quality of life for those living with the infection," said Luis Mendoza, HIV Medical Manager for GSK Colombia.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection that affects the cells of the immune system, especially CD4 lymphocytes, which are responsible for protecting the human body from infections and other diseases. As HIV destroys immune cells, a progressive deterioration occurs, known as "immunodeficiency," which means that the person is susceptible to developing illnesses and infections because the body cannot defend itself properly, resulting in reduced immune function.