HIV TRANSMISSION: AN INFANT BORN TO A MOTHER WHO IS HIV POSITIVE

An infant born to a mother who is HIV positive has a 12-13 percent risk of being born infected, with a higher risk if the mother is at an advanced stage in her illness. If the mother has a large amount of circulating virus (which can be the case briefly during the initial infection and for a longer period later in the course of her illness), then an infant runs a 30 percent or greater chance of being infected. Babies born prematurely also seem to have a higher risk of infection, and the use of fetal scalp monitors also makes transmission of HIV easier. (These devices use tiny electrodes placed on the infant’s head while in the womb to monitor the infant’s condition,- the tiny cuts they create in the scalp can facilitate the transmission of HIV and herpes virus from the mother to the infant.) Trauma to the scalp from forceps may also facilitate transmission. Having a delivery via cesarean section may decrease the risk of transmission of HIV to a child.

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