Children are most likely to get HIV from their mothers in 1 of 3 ways:
Graphic: Icon of a pregnant woman.
In the womb
Graphic: Icon of a baby in swaddling clothes.
Graphic: Icon of a mother breastfeeding a baby.
From breastfeeding or breastmilk
30 years of NICHD research has helped establish safe and effective ways to prevent this type of HIV transmission.
Risk of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
25% Emerging Risks of HIV
List of three items:
- In 1991, NICHD research showed a 25% chance of an HIV-positive pregnant woman passing the virus to her infant.
- There were no approved treatments for HIV-positive children.
- There were no proven ways to prevent transmission.
8.3% Using Treatment as Prevention
Graphic: Icon of a pregnant woman taking medicine with the caption "clinical trial" followed by an arrow pointing to an icon of two medication bottles with the caption "zidovudine (AZT)".
List of four items:
- The NICHD helped fund the first clinical trial to test the drug zidovudine (AZT) in HIV-positive pregnant women.
- Trial results were so impressive that the trial was stopped early so that all the participants could benefit from the treatment.
- In 1994, AZT became the standard treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women in the United States.
- AZT helped reduce mother-to-child transmission risk to 8.3%.
1.2% Improving treatment
Graphic: Illustration of assorted pills with the caption "Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART)"
List of three items:
- Research from the NICHD and others showed that a 3-drug regimen—called HAART—was better than AZT at preventing mother-to-child transmission. A 2002 study showed that HAART reduced the risk of transmission to 1.2%.
- HAART became the standard treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women in the United States.
- Ongoing research, co-funded by NICHD, is looking at the long-term safety of fetal exposure to HAART during pregnancy.
NICHD continues to conduct cutting-edge research to help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. To learn more, visit: http://go.usa.gov/FgXF.
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Back to HIV Transmission from Mother to Child infographic.