The Power of Undetectable: What you need to know about HIV treatment as prevention

 

Having an HIV-Negative Baby

If you are living with HIV and pregnant, or you want to have a child, HIV treatment can allow you to have an HIV-negative baby. Because people living with HIV who take HIV treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load do not transmit HIV to their sex partners, it is now easier than ever for people with HIV to get pregnant safely. Effective treatment also helps people living with HIV give birth to HIV-negative babies. Pregnancy does not make your HIV worse and HIV does not change how your pregnancy proceeds.

If possible, try to find an obstetrician who has experience with HIV care and who will respect your choices. If you live in a smaller town or rural area, it might be harder to find an obstetrician who is knowledgeable about HIV. In that case, you can help your doctor find information about HIV and pregnancy (visit www.catie.ca).

Before effective HIV treatment existed, about one in four babies born to a person living with HIV was born HIV-positive. However, we now know that if you start HIV treatment before pregnancy and maintain an undetectable viral load throughout your pregnancy, you will not transmit HIV to your baby during pregnancy or delivery.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant, as you may need to change your HIV treatment. If you are not on treatment when you first get pregnant, starting HIV treatment as soon as possible dramatically lowers the chance of passing HIV to your baby.

Canadian guidelines recommend:

  • HIV treatment before you get pregnant and during pregnancy and labour
  • folic acid for three months before you become pregnant and during the first three months of pregnancy
  • vaginal (frontal) delivery for most pregnancies; only in a few cases will a C-section (surgery to deliver a baby) be necessary
  • HIV medication for the baby for a short time after birth
  • feeding the baby formula, and not breastfeeding (chestfeeding), because HIV can be passed through breast milk even if the parent is on successful HIV treatment

Talk to a healthcare provider you trust if you wish to breastfeed (chestfeed) or if you have questions about infant feeding. If you choose to breastfeed (chestfeed) your baby, it is important to work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider who can monitor your health and support you.

Free formula programs

The following list contains contact details for free formula programs in Canada for people living with HIV. You can also contact your service provider, support worker or local community health organization for up-to-date information about free formula programs.

British Columbia
Oak Tree Clinic at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre
604-875-2212

Alberta
Northern Alberta Program at the University of Alberta - Kaye Edmonton Clinic
1-844-407-1852

Northern Alberta Program at Royal Alexandra Satellite Clinic
780-735-4811

Southern Alberta HIV Program at the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre
403-955-6399

Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Infant Formula Program
contact@skhiv.ca

Manitoba
Manitoba HIV Program with Nine Circles Community Health Centre
Contact the dietitian at 204-940-6000

Ontario
The Teresa Group Provincial Baby Formula Program
416-596-7703

Other provinces and territories

At the time of publication, no other provinces or territories advertised free formula programs specifically for people living with HIV. If you live outside of the provinces in this list, contact an HIV organization or healthcare provider to see if there is an alternative program you can use to get help covering the cost of formula.

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