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HIV- woman gets pregnant by man with AIDS
Jul 5, 2000

I'm involved in a situation where the woman became pregnant by a man with AIDS. So far, she has tested negative. She is due late July and I have heard that even though she is HIV- right now, that during labor/birth, she may "cross over" and become HIV+. Is this true? If so, can you explain how it happens?

Thank you,

JP

Response from Dr. Luzuriaga

The most common test used to screen for HIV infection screens for the presence of HIV antibodies in the blood. After exposure, it can take at least 6 weeks (sometimes longer), to make sufficient antibodies to be detected by the test. This is why we generally test exposed individuals on several occasions over time.

Because the risk of passing the virus from mom to baby is particularly high when moms become infected while pregnant, it is important to prevent further exposure to the mom through safe sex practices (including condoms). I would also suggest that the woman should be tested by some of the newer, more sensitive methods for detecting HIV infection ("DNA or RNA PCR"). These tests often become positive before antibodies are made. Early detection of infection would allow for early antiviral therapy of the woman, which would benefit the woman and hopefully prevent HIV transmission to the baby. These tests are widely available through clinics or centers that routinely see HIV-infected individuals.

Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D.


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