Topic Overview

United States Preventive Services Task Force, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of
Pediatrics, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend
that all pregnant women be screened for
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. This is
because early detection and treatment are the key to preventing newborn HIV
infection.footnote 1

Although your doctor may not offer an HIV test as part of your routine prenatal care,
it’s a good idea to have one. If you have any risk factors for HIV infection,
your doctor may want to give you a second test later in your

If you or your partner has ever had unprotected sex (or
shared needles) with a person whose HIV status is unknown, there is a chance
that you have the virus. If you do have HIV, your baby could also become
infected. The virus is usually passed on during labor and childbirth. It is sometimes is passed during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding can pass the virus from mother to baby.

Treatment with medicines called antiretrovirals, both during pregnancy and
after the birth, greatly reduces a baby’s risk of HIV infection. Antiretroviral
medicines prevent the virus from multiplying. When the amount of HIV in the
blood is minimized, the
immune system has a chance to recover and grow

Treatment for HIV during and/or after pregnancy may include:

  • Antiretroviral treatment for the mother.
  • Planned
    cesarean delivery for women who have a high viral load. This means they have a higher risk for infecting their babies.
  • Antiretroviral treatment for the baby for 6 weeks
    after birth.
  • No

For more information, see the topic Human Immunodeficiency
Virus (HIV).

Related Information



  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2007). Human immunodeficiency virus section of Perinatal infections. In Guidelines for Perinatal Care, 6th ed., pp. 316-320. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rebecca Sue Uranga, MD – Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMarch 16, 2017