Your Guide to HIV Treatment

Preventing mother-to-child transmission

HIV treatment can also prevent the transmission of HIV from a mother to her fetus or child during pregnancy or when giving birth.

“What I try to tell my patients is that an HIV diagnosis is significant—it’s not something to trivialize—but if you get on effective antiretroviral therapy and we work on this together, you’ll be around well into old age. We’ll both be hobbling around my office together when we’re 102!”

—Dr. Lisa Barrett,
Infectious diseases specialist

Before effective treatment was available, about one in four babies born to HIV-positive mothers was born HIV-positive. But now, with proper treatment and care, the chance of a child becoming HIV-positive is less than 1%.

Canadian treatment guidelines recommend:

  • HIV medicine for the mother during pregnancy and labour
  • HIV medicine for the baby for a short period after birth
  • vaginal delivery for most pregnancies, and in some cases a C-section (surgery to remove the baby from the uterus)
  • feeding the baby formula and not breastfeeding

Breastfeeding still carries a small risk for HIV transmission even if the mother’s viral load is undetectable. If you’re pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about safe alternatives to breastfeeding (subsidized baby formula is available for mothers living with HIV in some parts of the country). You and your doctor should discuss all decisions about your treatment, pregnancy and delivery.

All of these new findings about the benefits of HIV treatment have huge implications for living well with HIV. If you have questions about HIV treatment, its role in prevention and what this means for you, talk to your HIV doctor or call CATIE toll-free at 1-800-263-1638.

Resource

You Can Have a Healthy Pregnancy if You Are Positive – an easy-to-read booklet for women with HIV who are pregnant or considering pregnancy.