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An HIV mom's biggest worry

Can HIV+ mothers prevent their child from contracting AIDS? That is the worry that most HIV+ mothers live with.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2003 12:55 IST

At the fourth International Conference on AIDS India, organised by the Department of Experimental Medicine and AIDS Resource Centre of MGR Medical University, in Chennai recently, the subject of mother to child transmission emerged as a major area of concern for health workers and planners.

An HIV+ woman's baby can get infected while in the womb, during delivery and through breastfeeding. According to UNICEF, without preventive interventions, approximately 35 per cent of infants born to HIV+ mothers contract the infection worldwide. In 2001, 800,000 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed HIV+ and an overwhelming 90 per cent were cases of parent to child transmission (PTCT).

In India, although most married women are in monogamous relationships, they get infected due to their husbands' risk behaviour. Besides looking after their own health and combating mental stress and discrimination, many also have to worry how to protect their infant from the infection. According to UNICEF, about 30,000 babies are born HIV+ in India.

Participants at the conference debated at length on whether infected mothers should breastfeed their babies. According to UNICEF's global estimate, infants not infected during pregnancy and childbirth (whose mothers are HIV+) face a 10-15 per cent chance of acquiring HIV through breastfeeding, depending on how long they are breastfed.

First Published: Nov 30, 2003 21:36 IST