292 HIV and AIDS
Like any other woman,
it is your right to
decide whether or not
you want to become
pregnant, and when.
➤ When babies born
to mothers with HIV
are very sick from
birth, they probably
have HIV. They should
be taken as soon as
possible to a health
center or hospital for
Pregnancy itself does not make HIV worse for a mother. But
her pregnancy can be more complicated if she has HIV or AIDS.
• lose the baby during pregnancy (miscarriage).
• get infections after pregnancy that are harder to cure.
• give birth too soon or have a baby infected with HIV.
Despite these problems, many women with HIV still want to
get pregnant and have a child.
If you want to get pregnant and you are not sure whether
you or your partner are infected with HIV, you should both get
tested. If getting tested is not possible, you can try to
reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV while
trying to get pregnant if you:
• h ave sexual intercourse without a condom only during
your fertile time (see pages 220 and 233). At all other
times, use a condom or practice safer sex.
• n ever have sexual intercourse when there are signs
of an STI.
If possible, all pregnant women should have a CD4 blood test
(see page 517) to see how strong their immune system is. If a
woman’s CD4 count is 350 or less, she should start ART
for her own health. If you are pregnant and have HIV, it is
especially important to take care of yourself—to eat well,
prevent and treat other illnesses (like malaria), and to get
treatment for HIV.
Prevention and Treatment with ART can keep you and your baby healthy
A baby can become infected while it is in your womb, during
birth, or while breastfeeding. Without treatment, 1 out of 3 babies
born to HIV-infected mothers becomes infected. Antiretroviral
medicines (ARVs) can protect your health and greatly reduce the
risk of passing HIV infection to your baby. Check with a health
worker trained in preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT)
about ARVs during pregnancy and childbirth (see page 520).
A mother with HIV always passes the HIV antibodies, but not
always the virus itself, to her baby. With the usual HIV test, the baby will have
a positive result because the mother’s antibodies stay in the baby’s blood for
18 months. After that, the mother’s antibodies will disappear from the baby’s blood
and, if the baby is not infected, the HIV test will be negative. A new blood test is now
available in some places. It can show if a baby is HIV positive from 6 weeks of age.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012