Congenital HIV is an HIV infection present from birth. Most often an HIV positive mother passes HIV to her baby during delivery or through breast milk. HIV is a retrovirus which weakens the body’s defense or immune system and can develop into AIDS. It is transmitted through bodily fluids. A woman might not know if she is infected with HIV, so testing for HIV before or early in pregnancy is important. If the woman is HIV positive, special steps can be taken to decrease the risk that the virus passes to the baby from 15% to 1%.
Symptoms of congenital HIV may include frequent infections, persistent thrush, and unusual rashes. These happen because HIV attacks and damages T-cells, which are part of our immune system. This makes it harder for the body to fight off infection. HIV can also enter the central nervous system and brain which causes HIV encephalopathy. This may cause developmental delay (especially speech delay), behavior changes, and developmental regression. Babies with HIV are often slow to grow and gain weight. The heart, liver and spleen may be enlarged
In order to decrease the risk of transmission, an HIV positive women’s doctor or midwife will recommend taking antiretroviral medication during the pregnancy. A C-section is also recommended. Breastfeeding should be avoided if possible. After birth, the baby should also be on antiretroviral medication for about a month. If your baby does have congenital HIV, he or she will need lifelong treatment with these medications. Many babies are screened for congenital HIV at birth so that treatment may begin early, but the conditions included in newborn screening vary by state. For more information, visit Baby’s First Test. If your baby has congenital HIV, talk with your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also a good source of informati