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AZT Therapy

January 1, 1981

AZT (also known as zidovudine or ZDV) is one of the medicines that work against HIV. AZT may slow down the virus and the effects it has on your body. Many people who have HIV feel better while taking AZT. Sometimes AZT causes problems such as upset stomach, anemia (low blood), headache, or muscle soreness. These problems usually go away when AZT is stopped or the dose is lowered.

Babies and AZT: the 076 Study

You may have heard about a research study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called the 076 study. 076 is the number NIH gave to the study. The 076 study found that women with HIV who took AZT were much less likely to pass the virus to their babies.

The following are facts about the study:

Facts about the Women in the Study

Questions and Answers About the AZT Study

Q. How was AZT given to the women and babies in the study?

The women and babies in the 076 study took AZT in three stages:

Q. Did AZT cause problems for the women?

Taking AZT did not seem to make the women in this study any sicker than the women who did not take AZT. Studies are being done to see if the women have any long-term problems.

Q. Did AZT cause problems for their babies?

AZT did not cause any serious problems for the babies in the 076 study.

Q. What do these results mean for me?

The results of the AZT study are very hopeful. But, we do not know if AZT will work the same for women and babies who are not like the women and babies in the study.

Q. Is there anything else I can do?

Talking With your Health Care Provider

The following are some questions to ask your health care provider about using AZT:
  1. Could AZT help me and my baby?

  2. Will AZT make me or my baby sick?

  3. What if I am taking other medicines?

  4. What if I use drugs or alcohol?

  5. Will I need to keep taking AZT after I have my baby?

  6. When will I know if my baby has HIV?

  7. What if I need to take AZT later on for myself?

  8. How will I pay for my care?

Profiles: A Woman's Decision Whether to Take AZT Therapy

The following are anecdotes of real women living with HIV/AIDS who had to make a decision whether to take AZT therapy.


"...when I found out I was pregnant and infected with hiv, my OB/GYN doctor talked to me about taking AZT to lower the risk of infecting my baby with the virus. I asked my HIV counselor all the questions I could think of, then talked to my man about it. I decided to start taking AZT right away, and he supported my decision. We wanted our baby more than anything in the world. I didn't want my baby to be HIV-positive like me.

I took AZT while I was pregnant. I feel like I gave it my best shot. Taking AZT was the right decision for me because I wanted a chance to help my baby. You have to decide if AZT is right for you and your baby. Do what I did and talk about it with someone you trust. Ask questions and get the facts."


"...I thought long and hard about my options. After several days I finally made my decision not to take AZT. I felt it was the right choice for me at that time. I admit that later I thought about taking the AZT treatment. I even spoke with my HIV counselor who was very supportive. But, she could not tell me for sure that AZT would keep my baby from getting the virus. I wanted to know more about it. Back then, there just wasn't much information around on AZT and pregnant women.

These days, I'm a peer counselor and talk to pregnant women who are infected with HIV all the time. I tell them that AZT is a medicine that fights the HIV virus. It doesn't cure HIV, but it may protect a baby from getting the virus from the mother. The choices you have to make at this time in your life are difficult, and you need someone to support you. I know from experience."


"The people at the clinic where I was tested seemed to know a lot about pregnant women like me who are HIV-positive. They told me there was some new information about pregnant women who took a drug called AZT. They even encouraged my family to be very involved with my care.

We had a lot of meetings with people at the clinic to see if taking AZT would be right for me. With the help of my family, I decided to take AZT because it might help me have a healthy baby. I don't think I could have made it through my pregnancy without the help of my family and the people at the clinic. It'll be a while before we know if my baby is infected or not. I can't decide what's best for you...what I do know is that taking AZT was right for me."

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This article was provided by U.S. Health Care Financing Administration. It is a part of the publication Pregnancy and HIV -- What Women and Doctors Need to Know. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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