Perinatal Transmission, including Breast Feeding
Advances in HIV research, prevention, and treatment have made it possible for many women living with HIV to give birth without transmitting the virus to their babies. The annual number of HIV infections through perinatal, or mother-to-child, transmission has declined by more than 90% since the early 1990s.1
Today, if a woman takes HIV medicine daily as prescribed throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery and gives HIV medicine to her baby for 4-6 weeks after giving birth, the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby can be as low as 1% or less.1,2 When the HIV viral load is not adequately reduced, a Cesarean delivery can also help to prevent HIV transmission. After delivery, a mother can prevent transmitting HIV to her baby by not breastfeeding and not pre-chewing her baby’s food.
We don’t know if a woman with an undetectable viral load can transmit HIV to her baby through breastfeeding. Being undetectable substantially reduces, but does not eliminate the risk of transmitting HIV through breastfeeding. A woman with HIV should avoid breastfeeding even if she has an undetectable viral load. Download the HIV and Pregnant Women, Infants, and Children fact sheetpdf icon for more information.
The National Perinatal HIV Hotline (888-448-8765) provides free clinical consultation on all aspects of perinatal HIV care.
Injection Drug Use Transmission
There are insufficient data to estimate the impact of viral suppression on HIV transmission through sharing syringes or other injection drug equipment, but studies indicate there is likely reduced risk. See Injection Drug Use for more.
PEP has shown to reduce HIV acquisition from occupational sharps exposure in health care settings. Notably, occupational exposures tend to be single events. See Occupational HIV Transmission and Prevention among Health Care Workers for more.
- Achievements in Public Health: Reduction in Perinatal Transmission of HIV Infection — United States, 1985—2005. MMWR 55(21);592-597.
- Townsend, Claire L; Cortina-Borja, et al. Low rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV following effective pregnancy interventions in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 2000–2006external iconexternal icon. 2008. 22(8):973-981. PubMed abstractexternal icon.