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Baby HIV risk cut with treatment

7th May 2008

New research has shown that the risk of pregnant women with HIV passing the virus on to her baby can virtually be eradicated with the appropriate treatment.

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Experts from University College London led the study for Aids Online, which examined data on 5,151 HIV pregnancies in the UK and Ireland between 2000 and 2006.

It discovered that the infant infection rate was just 1.2% where preventative steps were taken compared to more than 20% in the mid-1990s before effective drug therapy was available.

During pregnancy, most HIV positive women in the UK now take a combination of antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs and a caesarean section delivery further reduces the risk of infection to the child.

However, what the study suggests is that the drugs are now so effective that a normal delivery is possible.

Lead researcher Claire Townsend said the findings demonstrated that if women are tested for HIV early enough in pregnancy for ART to begin, the risk of infection to their baby is very low.

“This emphasises the importance of achieving and maintaining a high uptake of antenatal HIV testing on a national scale,? she said.

Lisa Power, of the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “With the right treatment and relevant support, the vast majority of women living with HIV can have healthy uninfected children.?

But access to ART drugs remains below 10% for women in developing countries, according to a 2006 report from the World Health Organisation, leading to 1,800 babies were born with HIV each day.

 

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