Being tested for HIV is scary, but it’s one of the most responsible things an expectant mom can do during pregnancy. If you’re HIV positive, getting proper treatment can significantly reduce your risk of spreading the virus to your baby and is crucial to protect your own health. (Without medication, though, the risk of transmission can be as high as 25 percent.) For this reason, it’s essential that pregnant women who are HIV-positive take their medications as prescribed and don’t stop for any reason, or the virus can become resistant to the drugs. Staying on meds also lowers levels of the virus in the body, which further reduces the risk of transmitting it to the baby.
All pregnant women be tested for HIV as early as possible. If you’re not offered an HIV test at your first prenatal visit, ask for one.
HIV/AIDS testing is conducted with a blood test.
If you’re at high risk for an HIV infection, you should be tested again in your third trimester. You’re at high risk for HIV if:
- You’re in a relationship with a new sexual partner.
- You don’t know the HIV status of your new sexual partner.
- You or your partner inject drugs.
- You exchange sex for money or drugs.
- Your partner is HIV positive.
Although it’s best for both you and your baby to begin treatment during pregnancy, getting treatment later is better than not being treated at all.
How can you be sure HIV test result is accurate?
HIV tests are generally very accurate. There are several types of HIV tests. Most tests check your blood for the presence of HIV antibodies, or a combination of antibodies and antigens. Your immune system produces antibodies to HIV in response to being exposed to the virus. It takes between three and 12 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies to show up in a test.
Is There Safe Treatment For Women During Pregnancy?
Reducing the risk of a baby becoming HIV positive was an early benefit of HIV drugs. Although pregnant women are often advised against taking many medicines, this is not the case with HIV drugs.
Thousands of women have taken these drugs all over the world without any complications. This has resulted in many healthy HIV negative babies.
This registry has not seen any increase in the type or rate of birth defects in babies whose mothers have been treated with currently used ART. These rates are similar to those for babies born to mothers who did not take these drugs.
You and your doctor will talk about your treatment during your antenatal discussions
How can I avoid getting HIV?
If you’re reading this article because you’re concerned you may be at risk of getting HIV, there are steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Unless you’re sure that your partner is HIV negative, use condoms correctly every time you have sex. That’s the case whether it’s vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Use only water-based lubricants with condoms. Oil-based lubricants can weaken latex and cause it to break.
- If your partner is HIV positive, talk to your healthcare provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which involves taking medication to protect you from HIV if you’re at high risk. PrEP doesn’t replace the need to use condoms.
- Avoid contact with anything (such as needles or razors) that might be contaminated with infected blood.
- Never share needles or injection equipment with others. If you abuse injection drugs, there are support services that can help you quit.